On perhaps one of our last remaining warm fall days, I set out from Oak Grove Farm in Millis. The walk was part of the “Easy Walks” presentation I’d provided for the Millis Public Library. We’d combined the slide presentation with a walk afterwards in hopes people would be tempted to come learn about the area and join us in the outdoors as well.
The audience was small at the library, and three people joined us at Oak Grove Farm, but two quickly set off by themselves, leaving only one person to walk with me. But another friend I’d invited showed up at the parking area and suddenly the tone of our walk changed substantially.
My friend Liz likes to use the label “VIP” that is, “Visually impaired Person.” Her sighted friend Jack drove her and another VIP, Peg, to Millis. Peg has a guide dog, Harmony. Liz uses a white cane, but also walks arm in arm with Jack along outdoor trails when she gets out. Michelle and I would have been delighted to walk by ourselves, and we were tickled to see Liz, Jack, and Peg piling out of Jack’s car to join in the fun.
Before we started on the trail we found a wooden sign showing the trails. What a joy to watch Peg and Liz explore the textures of this wooden sign, the names of the trails inscribed in the wood. The track the trails follow was also inscribed into the sign, allowing the women to get a better sense for the direction we would be headed in.
I grew up hearing my mother use the phrase “Well, that’s the halt leading the blind,” a phrase she used when encountering a situation when one person was not very competent trying to be helpful. As I, who have a substantial limp from paralysis, found myself leading Liz and Peg along the trails I laughed. “Well, I guess we really do have the halt leading the blind,” I said. They laughed with me, but later admitted they’d never hear this phrase.
When I hunted for the origin of this phrase, I discovered its source is actually an Aesop’s fable, and rather than conveying the idea of putting someone in charge who is not capable, in fact, it is a story of two people who feel they have little to offer discovering that each has a gift to help the other. In the story, what seems insurmountable becomes manageable when the two people help each other.
As I listened to the things my VIP friend Liz and Jack are working on, I realized we were hearing of all the gifts each person in our group has, and what we have to share with others. Indeed, the halt and blind working together.
And thus, we shared a wonderful hour or so walking on the mostly smooth, broad tracks of Oak Grove Farm, enjoying the feel of the sunshine, the smell of the fallen leaves, and the touch of the stone walls that lined the open field.
And so we walked, caught up on what each was up to, and watched the trail for roots and rocks. What had promised to be a simple walk turned into a fun-filled hour of grace. I never know what will happen on these Easy Walks, and this walk at Oak Grove Farm was definitely no exception.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.