Monday, August 16, 2010
“The woods are lovely,
dark and deep.”
On Saturday, Michael and I went out on the trail with a packed lunch—a box of guacamole, some cucumber sticks, the blackest olives and a bit of chicken. We had a plan or rather, I had a plan—to repeat my birthday walk, only together. My step is easiest when walking with Michael, and when the trail gets wide we go side by side which is one of life’s finest pleasures.
I asked if one day he’d walk the barely-trails that the animals have made not for us but for themselves. We’d need to wear long pants to save us from the poison oak.
“Here’s one,” I said pointing off to the right shoulder of Iris Trail. But it was changed, wider than it had been a few days before and clearly not made by animals but by a human’s machine. We left our plan behind and turned right, going down, down, down. The trail narrowed; we continued.
Do you know the scene in C. S. Lewis’s book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where the children reach into a coat closet, step inside and begin walking, past where the back of the closet was, till snow is beneath their feet and the scratching against their faces is no longer from coats but tree branches?
That’s how I felt. What I thought was the back tree-wall of the park was not a boundary at all, but a gateway to the deeper woods. To hold that awareness, I had to kind of turn my head around—my world had just grown larger. This finding made me immoderately happy. Nothing other than sudden honesty in our political system; a return of my dead mother, only sober; or maybe a book deal, could have been as good.
The path climbed a bit, came to a clearing and where a low-to-the-ground, homemade trail marker gave us choices. The left-hand trail was unidentified, but later I found it goes to a place called Roach Canyon. (I can only imagine what I’ll find there!) Going forward would take us to Pacific Meadow and Del Mesa or we could turn around and go back to Jacks Peak. Michael left it up to me, and, unsurprisingly, I was compelled forward.
Michael and I may walk together but we’re never really on the same path.
“We’re much lower now. Not too many people take this trail,” said Michael.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“There are oaks and not pines here,” he said. “The layers of oak leaves wouldn’t be so thick if the path were well-traveled.”
God bless my boy scout! See why I feel safe walking with him? My attention had been taken by the pattern of the fallen, pale oak leaves. The crunching sound they made under our feet took me a long way back to another walk. But I hadn’t come to a conclusion about it. I’d been too entranced by color, shape, texture and the nearness of the oak tree branches to think beyond my senses and memory. Michael sees the large picture while I’m focused on the small one.
We kept going and going, walking south and west till we could almost see the mouth of Carmel Valley. That the ocean was nearby we could feel on our faces. I was determined to know where the trail ended, didn’t concern myself with the fact that the return would be one long hill home.
A cyclone fence, as if dropped down by aliens in front of us, seemed to bar our way till we looked more closely and found a path to the left, caught sight of a water tank below. Mr. Observation whispered, “Shhh.” I looked down to see a man in one of those fancy sun-protection hats walking up the trail.
He was friendly, most people on the trail are, said we were at the edge of a retirement community that comes out, yes, onto Carmel Valley Road. When asked, he told us he was originally from Budapest, that he walked here often. Clearly he knew the park far better than I do. He claimed to be 86, but based on the way he loped up the hill ahead of us, I doubt it.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 6:03 AM