By Benet Pols
Relentlessly, we walked.
“Just going,” my neighbor answered when asked if he was going someplace special.
March 2020. My family, home from school, taught and studied. I alone left for work in a place radically changed by a mood of dutiful determination. Beyond that, and forays to scout for precious yeast or some treat, there was only walking.
Soon neighborhood streets no longer met the need. There were too many awkward curbside pas-de-deux over which neighbor would cross and which would stay. This drove us to the woods; there the walk was accompanied by joy in simple rediscoveries, the early greening of moss, the faint trickle of melt water in a quiet grove, paths not taken since childhood.
It was spring so the signs of renewal were there. And we were outside to greet them.
After crossing two land trust properties and a friendly farm we tromped through a town-owned patch of woods that leads to the edge of Maquoit Bay. Too far from home to get back in time to make dinner we ruefully called for a ride. Bushwhacking near the shoreline on the old navy base we got turned around. Location services showed us where on God’s green earth we were. We stumbled on artworks left to astound passersby. One muddy afternoon found us staring in disbelief at a numbered mail box deep in the woods on a rutted, rocky, track barely wide enough for a Honda Fit.
The trails were a quagmire, the woods still snowy. Yet we always met people: hardcores in crisp synthetic fibers, conquering some twinkling copse with hiking poles, but also people in tank tops and camo carrying Mountain Dew. Everyone walked.
Accessible, nearby, natural, outdoor space is an imperative.
There is an expectation of conservation land: we are owed a pay-off. Instagram celebrates cliffs, peaks, or kayak camping on moonlit islands. Make no mistake, a crescendo at trail’s end is a fine thing but these walks were quiet, subtle meanderings. Tethered all day to the internet, with its grim statistical aggregation of dread, we were more grateful than ever to reclaim tranquility.
So much of what is preserved is humble: no grand vistas, no adrenaline rush, BUT it is almost next door. And there is gentle glory in the shadows, the glittering of new leaves in slanting afternoon light, and sounds so fleeting to be mistaken for silence.
Spring, again. Marvel at the lasting light, the throbbing of peepers deep in the woods and that years ago —enturies even— someone decided to leave it alone for us in this moment.