As we crunch along on the trail through fall leaves that now lie underfoot, we are reminded that winter is not far off. Here’s an excerpt from my newest book release, My Liturgy Of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) places.
Sounds of Silence
We were tromping through the drifts on a short walk in new fallen snow when I spotted the tracks. Ha! These were our own footprints—we were retracing our steps, headed back home. We had ventured to an old trolley line rail bed that still stands in the woods near our house. The dirt road cuts a straight line through the trees; the path we took did not. Despite the straightness of the trail we still created a wobbly line as we walked.
I smiled. No, we people do not stick to the lines set out before us. There was much to see on this day after a snowstorm, and our zigzagging path told the story of the distractions I found along the way.
Multiple witch hazel shrubs were weighted down by the snow, their fall blossoms of a few weeks before now frozen in place as winter set in. The stream that had been bone dry all summer was now filled, almost overflowing its banks as it tumbled through the woodland. We spotted another set of tracks made by someone else’s snowshoes. We later confirmed they belonged to our neighbor, who had gotten out earlier than we had.
The going was more difficult to navigate through than when we walked through the drifts in our yard. Could the difference in snow depths be a matter of how the wind blew? Our house is perched at the top of a sinuous hill, an esker (a long winding ridge of gravel), the remains of a long-ago glacier that covered this land thousands of years ago. The trolley line path is down below us.
The wetlands between our house and the trolley bed are filled in the spring with an orchestra of spring peepers (the high notes) and wood frogs (the bass notes). In this time of new-fallen snow, the loudest sound as we walked was silence. Road noise was muffled. The still air held the cold. The tumbling of the stream over rocks created an oh, so sweet, pianissimo symphony of water cascading down small changes in elevation as it made its way to the Peters River, and eventually to the Blackstone River, miles south of us.
Winter had begun in earnest. In fits and starts, the change of seasons take hold. Rain will soon wash snow into the streams, filling them to the brim. More flurries might arrive, or not. As always, we wait and wonder.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks, Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has written for numerous local, regional, and national publications over the past 20+ years, has helped many families save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.