Let's Take a Walk
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both.
And being one traveler long I stood
And looked down one far as I could.....
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ---
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
Most of you are familiar with Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Traveled". In his message, he is telling us to journey the unknown, less traveled path, to take a chance, and go where most don't.
This is great advice for those looking to escape the congested roadways of our world. I, too, found this to be a visionary idea. But through years of hiking and exploring, I have modified what I believed to be Mr. Frost's meaning. Coming across two such divergent byways, my choice now is not to opt for the one most isolated.
Which road I choose has little significance any more. It is how I choose to travel either of these two roads. I am most delighted to travel either one, as long as my method of travel is by foot.
To truly experience the world around you, take the time to allow your senses to seize everything as you pass by. Traveling by motor vehicle or even by bicycle robs your senses of all but a fleeting glance. Wonderful experiences open to you as you zip down the road to your "next stop". Even the traditional Sunday drive we once relished with our families only allows the shell of what is out there to be realized.
Walking lets you travel at your own pace and stop when you wish without the concern of those following you running into you or merely blasting you back from your daydreaming observations by the piercing blare of their horn. With each step your senses enter a new world. Smells change from flower to flower. Sounds become distinct voices of each insect, bird, or rustling leaf rather than a stew of these natural sounds stirred by gusting wind and humming tires. When you are walking you feel the variation in warmth as you meander from shade to sun and back again. You feel a soothing breeze caress your cheek or the leaves on a low branch as they stroke the top of your head when you forget to dip beneath it.
Even our strongest sense, sight, is compromised when riding along a byway. Most visions are a blur with only a flash of green or yellow whistling by. Yes, while riding you saw an animal in the bushes, but what kind? Was it furry and brown? Or a bird? Or was that just a branch oscillating?
As you are walking notice the unique and diverse shapes of leaves and colors of flowers. Observe how tall some plants are and that their leaves are spread at the very apex of the stem; or maybe their's have bent over in a sudden outburst of wind, splashing through a puddle in an old tire track.
You also loose depth riding by. The world seems two dimensional other than the church steeple far in the distance. You even might have missed the slate shingled spire standing proudly upright in the distance between two birch trees.
Yes, those were birches, and a few steps beyond was a small stand of maples. Maybe if you wait, the pileated woodpecker, responsible for the hollow, will return, undulating through the forest to search for more insects for his or her young still in the nest. While you are waiting, you glimpse a tiny downy woodpecker hopping up the trunk on one of the maples. Two trunks over, a whitebreasted nuthatch seems to be racing headfirst toward the base of the tree. It is the only bird to walk down that way.
A startling buzz catches your attention and you view several bumble bees hovering over the beautiful wild purple phlox. In the background you discern a trickling of water, and upon a closer look you perceive a miniature stream bubbling over a few tiny stones as it wanders off deeper into the woodlands. Several strides further, your scenery has transformed with the ground blanketed in buttercups and garlic mustard. You want to pick all the garlic mustard knowing it is an invasive plant and will eventually be the only flower here. There are two lonely wild dogwoods, past bloom, standing like sentries on either edge of this tiny meadow.
Would you have experienced any of this in your car? No, you would have enjoyed a tranquil, comforting journey down a pastoral country road, but the excursion and maybe a few trees would have been the only highlights.
This doesn't mean you must find a lonesome, bucolic trail to experience new sights, sounds, and smells.
A couple of years ago I began walking downtown from my house, about a 2 1/2 mile trek. I was covering the same route we have driven for 35 years. I could almost write a field guide on what I experienced in those short 2 1/2 miles, yet nontheless managed to arrive at my yoga class on time.
I also use walking to relax and daydream. With each step my mind clears of the clutter that is often trapped up there. It is also a time when I find ideas for my writing, my gardens, and our vacation travels. As excercise, it is considerably less taxing on my knees and hips yet keeps me in shape for more strenuous jaunts such as hiking out of the Grand Canyon, which I will be attempting next fall after a raft trip down the Colorado River with my brother.
You need not find a well-marked trail. "Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking", said Spanish poet Antonio Machalo. Your journey can be just for the journey or it can be the means to reach point B from point A. But returning to my friend Rovert Frost, it matters not which road I choose at the divergence, as long as I travel the road one foot in front of the other.