To all those who followed me later on the trails, you’re welcome. I didn’t do the spider dance voluntarily but I did it repeatedly and with great enthusiasm on the dark trails, most of which was carpeted with a dank tapestry of leaves from last night’s torrential rains. I’m assuming the spider dance counts toward one’s cardiovascular regimen. There were 2 or 3 spots where the fallen leaves hid the dimly-defined edges of the trail. These were particularly laden with spider webs. Some of these spiders are enormous and when they have the time to do their work without interruption, their webs become as thick as my grandma’s favorite thread.
The only other vehicle or person I encountered the entire length of my walk was a patrol car exiting an access road leading to a school as if the officer had returned to brush up on his ABCs. (‘A’ is for arrest, ‘B’ is for breaking and entering…) Had the officer seen me a few minutes before, doing my spider web electrocution dance, he or she might have stopped to ask if me I was alright. As it was, I was probably just a silhouette in the eerie darkness.
I parked my car at was once Silent Grove Church. The church has long disbanded, once a hub for fervent locals to share their community gospel. One late night, over 3 decades ago, I parked my Dodge Fury there and ran for miles, so many that I could barely lift my legs when I finished. This was before the road was anything except a serpentine and narrow road which was sparsely populated before Springdale had aspirations of even reaching its municipal tentacles to those places on the periphery of anything substantial. The thought of a trail access in that area would have been ridiculed by everyone except the most visionary back in those days. When I finished my run, I laid across the hood of my car and somehow fell asleep, as it was probably 4 a.m. or later on that night so many years ago. The next morning, the sound of a honk and a school bus door swishing open awakened me. I’m sure I was quite a sight to the kids on the bus; the driver certainly was wondering whether I was dead, drunk, or dead drunk.
I recognize my privilege. I have the good health to walk, a car which gets me to these new places, and energy leftover from working, and a city which grew out its parochial insistence toward maintaining the imaginary “what-once-was.” These trails and places would not have been possible if those who demanded allegiance to the past had been the most effective voices.
Now that I’m older, I find myself laughing at the ease with which I could fall asleep in strange places. (Before my back began to groan like a dissatisfied older lady waiting at the store register, her 16 items stacks neatly on the counter, waiting for her impatient turn to question the cashier about each and every item.) As we age, almost all of us demand our nightly rituals, with each pillow fluffed just so, the fan at the exact speed to comfort us, and our world categorized around us. Our affluence estranges us to adventure.
This morning, there was no meteor shower nor anything particularly eventful – just an array of small delights: the sliver of a slowly rising crescent moon on the horizon, the rush of the creek underneath, an immense tree fallen next to the bridge, probably having surrendered to the insurmountable push of water yesterday evening, the feeling or smooth and yet uncertain footing across an infinite number of fallen leaves. The air was so heavy with moisture that I could trick myself into believing that it was pushing back against me as I walked.
Out there in the darkness, there was an absence of bickering saltines, no one making fatuous arguments regarding predatory relics in our evolving midst, no pointing fingers of superiority toward other beliefs. Just the methodical hum of a billion insects and feet moving forward, step, step, step. I walked much further than I intended to. The miles, though, seemed to accumulate without notice.
Alone, with my thoughts, wondering and with wonder.