“It’s a pale, silent day: I would like to be walking in a wood, far away.” — Katherine Mansfield, from a diary entry of 25 June 1907
Almost any day, I would like to be walking in a wood, far away or nearby. Often nearby.
Yesterday was a pale, silent day. Very silent. Grey. A sky in waiting. Earth stilled. I was alone on a nearby nature trail, crouching to inspect small hidden worlds, stopping every so often to listen to the silence that was punctuated by a hairy woodpecker jack-hammering a rotting tree, when I heard the unmistakable sound of someone walking in leaves not too far from me. Someone: a deer? a person? a hunter? a stray dog? a black bear?
I froze in place and the sounds stopped. I waited. They started again, in a spot parallel to me through the woods. I scanned. Saw a medium-sized dark, almost black, shape moving over a rock wall. Not a deer, probably not a person. Could be a bear or a dog. A porcupine? I waited, watched.
Ah. Now I could see them. Turkeys, a flock of turkeys scuffling the dry leaves as they walked single file, too far and through too many branches for a photo, but close enough to enjoy, now that I felt assured no gunshot or ferocious dog was likely to come my way in the next few moments.
Later, I saw evidence of a coyote, I think, large dark scat with a quantity of fur in it. Recent scat, scat that wasn’t there when I last walked the trail a few days before.
Trail walking alone is a kind of meditation for me, my senses alert to danger (more from humans than other animals, truth be told, and from hidden roots and holes, wet leaves and mud), my body moving rhythmically along, listening, looking, breathing in and out, feeling without much thought, nothing to do, nothing to undo, just to be held in the pale, silent day.