Same path, same camera pausing again, this time to capture a curled leaf, each serration salted with rime.
Nearing the pond, I listen for ducks.
But my viewfinder zooms in on mats of algae, flash-frozen. Glazed and rumpled, here is weather’s awkward marriage of wind and degree.
Friends, I love this trail
our neighbor’s woods, where,
with their permission,
I gratefully roam.
Only a week ago,
I traversed it on snow shoes—
which is why today,
after the thaw, I falter.
A rusty, misshapen bicycle someone recently abandoned rivets my gaze.
Whose is it?
Beyond, I see the old metal gate—jackknifed open—first time in 29 years.
Then . . . something blue: a child’s scooter, flung down in the grass.
And the ramshackle shed, ever-padlocked, now gapes.
I snap photos. Inch past the scooter. Two rooms with a plywood partition beckon.
In the first room, wheel spokes,
clogged with pine needles—another bike
hunkering amid castoffs: a cracked
Kool-Aid pitcher with its retro grin,
jumble of crockery, blackened tools.
It smells like rust and silt and disappointment.
Can you hear the sinister soundtrack? “Turn back, now!”
Stifling a shiver, I ease
into the second room.
From ten penny nails,
sacks of black netting sag.
Glint of an eyeball.
A crooked neck.
My breath stutters.
A gulp. A step backward.
A shake of the head, to clear it.
And then, that pesky resolve to know.
I edge forward, peering through gloom.
Duck decoys. Four bags full. Cork versions meant to lure real ducks into settling on the neighbor’s pond.
I too feel lured in. Fooled, and foolish. Relief is a long exhale, a shaky laugh.
O, the lure of the unexplained. Eavesdropping on a forgotten life. Lurking enigmas. Secrets.
We tread the familiar, by rote, sometimes for decades. And one day somebody wrenches open a gate. Someone leaves behind woebegone relics, evidence of a story.
Similarly, there are locked rooms in my heart, littered with ghosts. Misleading notions. I harbor substitute emotions disguising something I don’t want to face.
I am sharply aware, in this moment, of simmering jealousy within, masquerading as applause for a colleague’s recent success. I’ve stuffed it away, feathered my envy with feigned goodwill. This is how I lure myself into believing I’ve mastered festering disappointment.
The Old Testament prophet Hosea heard God say, “I will now allure her. I will lead her into the desert. There I will speak tenderly to her.”
And isn’t this a kindness, after all, being led forward? Braving the musty, looking within, naming what’s still lurking inside the sack?
I head home: same path, same camera, no longer quite the same me.
Tell us, how do you interpret Hosea’s enigmatic words?
You might also enjoy: Constancy: The Tale of a Trail
Woodshed quote from Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons.