Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Path of One's Own

I've done some walking in the past. England. The Yorkshire Dales. We walked the old ways, over stiles and through farmers' fields, careful to latch the gates and skirt the cows. The footpaths led us from one small village of thatched houses and a pub to yet another and another.

Walking and walking. We bathed our faces and soaked our hats in an ancient spring. Here we found a "cloutie well", festooned with bits of bright cloth. Hang a rag at the cloutie well, and you heal yourself and others. So, we left a sock tied to a branch and traveled on, more secure, more protected.

Walking, walking. We walk history and the Freedom Trail. We walk the Mall in Washington. From Georgetown, we walk the old canal towpath to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where once mules strained and pulled barges of cargo from Rocky Creek to Cumberland.

Home in the north, a path leads from our back door up to the summit of Hersey Mountain to a granite slab of a lookout. We hike by vernal pools, a seasonal brook, signs of moose and deer, old logging yards, and an abandoned cellar hole. We go back down, down to our own small woody house and hang our sticks by the door.

As I said, I've done some walking in the past.

Long before I had a driver's license, I walked. I walked to school and to the "Y". I walked to the library and to Aunt Mary's, on to the dentist and piano lessons.

I walked because I had to -- no one around to give me a ride. But, I also walked because I could. It was out of freedom. Stubborn pride. Independence.

Walking was personal. No one could take it away from me.