There exists a subtle difference between hiking and walking. A hike has a destination and demands a brisk pace to reach Point B from point A. You may pause for breath or to drink from your Camel Back or to admire a particular view, but the emphasis remains on getting somewhere and getting back to the starting point. A walk is governed by circumstance. There is no particular goal that must be reached; the pace is slower and any point of interest, a flower, a bird, a towering tree, calls for a halt to observe, to take in the scene, and to record memories. While a hike requires a pack with emergency supplies, a pair of binoculars and a camera are the most important equipment on a walk.
I pity those who live where seasons never change and it is always summer. Today was perfect for a walk, to pause and contemplate an ending and a beginning. Fall approaches. I feel it in the morning chill. The sun is warm but does not burn. The garden gives forth its bounty with a frantic quality as if it needs to accelerate production before frost takes it all away. My kitchen counter glows with yellows and reds of tomatoes and chili peppers.
We tend to associate flowers with burgeoning spring, but a walk in late summer reveals a panoply of early autumn blooms. Entire fields glow with golden rod, that harbinger of autumn. Queen Anne’s lace, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Black-Eyed Susans, Red Clover linger for a little longer.
Rum cherries litter the trail beneath black cherry trees and bears are probably already feasting on this bounty. If you wish to compete with bruins, gather some of these, heat them and squeeze out the juice, add sugar syrup and a little vodka to obtain a delicious brandy that will bring memories of summer on cold winter nights.
I brought my binoculars, but birds have ceased to sing their summer songs and remained out of sight. Not even the monotonous call of red-eyed vireos competed with the chirping of crickets and the white noise of trucks on route 12. I thought of Robert Frost’s “Ovenbird” in which he says, “This bird should cease and be as other birds, except he knows in singing not to sing,” but I haven’t heard an ovenbird in better than a month. Could Frost have confused the ovenbird with the red-eyed vireo? I have often wondered.
Great rolls of hay, like giant shredded wheat, adorn pastures. Not too many years ago these would have been haystacks and later on square bales. Time changes and with it methods of harvest.
I visited the spring that once fed my home’s water supply but now is responsible only for an easement that allows me to trespass with impunity upon the property of the Barneveld Horseman’s Society. The spring still provides water for horses and I suspect may also slake the thirst of some equestrians. Again, musing on Frost and clearing the pasture spring I turned and wandered slowly homeward.
Cincinnati Creek at the Ford