Step Off The Path [on DR Thursday]

At first we were horrified. The forest filled with machinery. Trees down and the underbrush annihilated. Our beloved trail decimated. We read that the seeming destruction was part of a woody invasive species clearing project. The clearing would allow the native species to rejuvenate.

Later, after the machinery was removed and the air cleared of diesel fumes, we returned to walk the obliterated forest trail. And, on our walk, I learned – or re-learned – a very valuable lesson. The change pulled us from our well-worn path and invited us to explore. Because we could now see all the way to the river, we left the trail. We stepped into the unknown. What had been comforting and known now beckoned us to see anew. To wake up.

We walked in places where previously we could not because the brush was too dense. We followed an animal trail through the snow into a part of the forest we’d never been. It was a place we’d never before considered investigating. We deviated and hiked all the way to the train tracks. We took photos. We felt the thrill of stepping into new territory. Our eyes wide open, our ears attuned to every nuance of sound, we took nothing for granted. Everything was pristine and unknown.

Change is like that. It makes you pay attention.

Returning to the trail so we could make our way back to the car, enlivened by our off-trail adventure, we wondered aloud about the wildlife. We worried for the deer. And, just as the words left our mouths, Kerri stopped and motioned to the forest’s edge. A deer was watching us. And then there were two. Three. Five. After determining that we were not a threat, they nibbled on branches. We stood very still; quiet appreciation.

It felt like a reward for taking the step off the beaten path. It felt like reassurance that the devastation was akin to a forest fire; necessary for renewal.

From a cue invisible to us, the deer leapt in unison, white tails flashing, and disappeared into the forest. It broke the spell. We returned to the car, eyes scanning the forest in case the deer returned. Our senses keen, I felt fully alive.

Change is like that. A clearing project, disrupting comfortable complacency, nothing can be taken for granted, making way for new seeing and discovery. Anything becomes possible.

a work in progress: train through trees, 48x48IN

read Kerri’s blogpost about RIVER BEND

train through trees (in progress) © 2023 david robinson

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