I want . . . something I can turn to,
regardless of what I do,
regardless of who I become,
Something that will just be there,
always, like tomorrow’s sky.*
Dressed for a jog, I take my usual route. Care to join me?
My trail sinks a fraction lower each year. Call it a packed-earth anthem to rambling. Unwinding. Sometimes I sing.
I love these rolling wild acres beyond our back door. I’ve traversed them in sundry footwear and weather, accompanied by Uncle Tanner, our yellow Labrador. Oh, come with us . . .
. . . This is the jarring, knee-shocker downhill stretch: momentum’s kick-start.
Uncle Tanner will charge the pond, spring-fed and fringed with cattails. Whoosh! Canadian Geese panic, their long bodies airborne. Sunning turtles resembling overturned clogs plop into the pond.
Listen. The water talks to itself as it surges, then cascades, through a buried exit pipe.
Piney woods beckon, crisscrossed by owls and deer, the shadowed expanse sporadically sunlit.
Then, at last, we’re out in the open. Beneath cinematic skies, two tire tracks carve through acres of meadow.
It’s like four small worlds. They surprise and enliven me—even when my feet hurt. Over time, coupled with gratitude, their familiarity breeds . . . contentment.
I’ve traversed this trail for 28 years. I know exactly where the temperature reliably alters a few degrees. I recognize seasonal blooms, each rotation of insects, the arresting ways that light oils the hinges, morning and evening, of every day.
But nothing compares with the big-muscle, thumping-heart rhythm of moving through each distinct space with a dog. I cherish his cheerful constancy. We absorb birdsong and the reedy shrill of crickets. We take in the clean, resinous air.
Today, I aim to jog the entire heavenly loop.
Until I don’t.
Not far from my back door, bluish-green seedlings clog my path and its margins—hundreds of them. An arboreal rash of feathery green.
These baby pine trees are the plucky offspring of bug-riddled trees we felled, two years ago. Now, I must stem the invasion. They are part threat, pure nuisance, yet vital—because, well, they’re trees!—thus integral to the sense of sanctuary.
But this is renewal with a vengeance. Left alone, they’ll take over, obliterate the path, my hard-won path.
So I stop. Then stoop. You have to tease their skinny taproots, long as a forearm, from parched soil. That’s it, an even, seamlessly smooth, slow-motion pull. Too much angle and the tiny green crown snaps off in your palm. Too much tug and the last gasp of root hunkers underground, plotting resurrection.
I also pull knapweed, thistles, wormwood, vetch.
One’s adversaries deserve to be named. Known.
So I am an oft-interrupted jogger. An adamant seedling assassin.
Occasionally I question time spent on weeds and dirt. The relentless, dogged, losing battle.
Yet here is my sacred trail: and here, my gentle loping-toward-God pace—with strategic pauses—all of it so conducive to listening prayer.
There is an art to constancy,
a sinewy ache,
Constancy in life’s details ripples outward, inward. In times of turmoil, it grounds us.
Cultivating the habit of constancy spills over, nourishing friendships, marriage, and more. I find myself more apt to take a stroll with Dreamer . . . rather than take another mindless scroll through the latest real estate listings.
I’m more prone to savor face-to-face conversations with friends rather than loiter, overlong, on Facebook.
Constancy slows me down.
I make time for two outings per day. Trail time seems to be Uncle Tanner’s constant hope. Fourteen now, he needs less speed, fewer miles, more treats. Who knows how much longer he’ll pad along at my side?
Constancy carves a path through all manner of wilderness.
Tell me more about constancy . . . What have you noticed?
- Opening quote by Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans
- From the Archives, earlier tales of The Trail: Own a Better View
- Space: Creativity’s New Frontier