Downy woodpecker searching for breakfast. Heard her (the male has red on its head and although I can’t be certain I think this is a female) while walking the dogs on one of our favorite trails this weekend. The trail loops through the woods near the first house we lived in when we moved back to Central Maine ten years ago. The path is wide enough for adults and children and dogs moving in both directions to pass each other without excessive chaos. There is one cut-through, one loop out onto private property, and now one short cut I’ve made for myself. There is also a trail that cuts away from the main loop and for a distance follow a brook. There are no scenic vistas or anything of the sort – by all accounts these are ordinary trails.
It is the ups and downs that I’ve walked and jogged and sprinted and hobbled through that make this network of trails extra-ordinary. It is the bend in the stream where I stood one cold November morning and somehow knew that my cousin was gone. And it is the fallen tree across the pond’s outlet where I hunkered down to sob out the loss of my father. It is which-rock-I’ll-never-know that ripped my husband’s ankle to shreds. The strangers we’ve passed so many times we now count them among friends. The rock I always hide behind to pee. The culverts my dog wants to climb through – every single time. The deer that graced the thick woods with their presence before the clear cut. And the views of my old house that I refuse to glimpse through the trees.
As 20th century Spanish poet Antonia Machado said, “Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.” That is – we make the path by walking. I have walked this path through all four seasons many days a week for many years. This was so much easier to do when I could walk out of my back door, cut through 50 feet of woods, and hit the trail. Our move made this quick walk a brief car ride, but most days when I step onto that path I feel like I am with an old friend. Having an old friend to return to is especially important when the path forward is so hard to see. Learning to expect the unexpected, practicing going with the flow. None of us really knows what is around the next bend. Keep walking.