Travelling with the Muse on Monday

With trees half bare, Autumn nearly done in, at the edge of Winter I hiked early on a Monday morning, just after sunrise, only hours before work. I drove down to Wadsworth Park, and walked uptrail, following the main line into the woods, careful not to slide back downhill on the slippery leaves which covered the trail.

This was a trail I'd never travelled, had heard of the "Little Falls" but somehow never got to them as other places got in the way. So today I was off to find those little falls.

I realized how much I do love New England, the starkness of it too, as the leaves drop off, leaving the woods almost embaressedly naked. As a skinny little boy I hated the cold of winter but with a little fat to ward off the cold that may make some difference. Then too when the films of Ingmar Bergman came into my life, years ago, I began to appreciated the subtle beauty of starkness -- the simplicity of black and white.

As I hiked the white trail I thought about my son Tony and of the places that we'd never visited. Yet we did travel to New Hampshire, to Canada several times, the Gaspe Penninsula, Cape Cod and he did get to see and love the "Big Falls" downriver. Yet I felt a twinge of regret that I was getting to see and appreciate the gift of new sights and sounds, different feelings and smells and his experiences had come to an end.

Tony's sister Terry and I and friends scattered his ashes to the wind at Hammonasette Beach those ten years ago. Still, when I went hiking to new places, I thought of Tony and felt, in this way, that I was sharing the experience with him wherever his spirit resides.

Stopping for a moment I looked up at an old tree, nodding a greeting to the ancient fellow. In our American culture we don't think of trees as fellow creatures; sure they're a bit slow and not much at conversation but they endure, they protect, they give us the gift of oxygen.

I came to a stone bridge and had to climb down the embankment to see if any trolls were home. I thought of the trolls of Wadsworth Falls, just a short ways upriver and wondered if they had ever found a place to live after their bridge was torn down to make way for the new one.

If, indeed, there was a family or even a single troll living here there was no evidence, though I did meet the resident spider who invited me in but I assumed this his objectives and my own were quite different and so I refused his invitation.

Further down the trail there were several branches, one leading to the upper pastures, others headed down toward the small falls. I was tempted to branch off to see where the upper trail led but then held firm and continued on toward the falls. Down a winding trail I came to the sound of trickling water, not powerful but gentle, almost kind. At the bottom of the trail was a small stream winding along a rocky gully.

Then, following the trail upwards I came to a series of rock ledges, like stepping stones, and smiled as I first saw the "Small Falls." Small indeed they were, simple, almost childlike but quite exquisite in their detail.

I began to appreciate the fact that I'd never been here, that it was something saved for "later." Just as the other falls I'd found recently were surprises and delights, so too these little falls were a source of instant joy. I stood watching the water and listening to its soft, trickling music for a while before climbing the trail to find a vantage point where I could look down on the "steps."

Here I found intimate little pools, sometimes bubbling with life or in others there was a quiet solitude that spoke in its eloquent silence of the mysteries of life and the infinity of time and space . . .

I found that, as I moved along the river bank, I could step from one universe to another within a matter of a few steps. It was fine to be alone in the woods like this, being with the creatures of the land, a few fuzzy squirrels, the sentient trees and perhaps the watching muse. Conversation, at moments like this, would interrupt something which seemed as frail as the web of a spider, just a small touch and it was broken, so too words uttered in the trivial pursuit of daily routine would injure the magic of this "holy" place.

So I stayed for a while and noticed other pathways, and too the direction downstream could yet be explored. Though finally I decided to leave the other paths, and the downward stream, the curve which may or may not hide other treasures. Something had to be left for another time, another visit.

Leaving the falls I travelled back up the trail, meeting a single individual out walking his dog. We stopped for a moment as I said hello to them and then I journeyed back to my vehicle and the return to work on a Monday morning.


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