|Green heron at sunset|
Last evening I set off into the woods an hour or so before sunset. The shadows were already long and inviting. The sky was a deep, clear blue with no humidity to shorten the distance or obscure the view.
I followed no path and had only a vague notion of where I was going. What I really wanted to do was walk where I hadn’t walked recently, where ticks, high grass and higher temperatures had defeated my ambition for a while. It’s one thing to wear long pants to avoid ticks when the temperature is cool, but doing so when it’s 95 is more than I am willing to do. Now that the season is heading towards fall and the grasses are drying up, ticks are already fewer in number, and now I am willing.
So I wandered through the long grasses between the forest and a pond, scaring up frogs and scattering dragonflies of various sizes and shapes. A green heron squawked and flew into a tree on the edge of the woods. A belted kingfisher rattled, flying low over the pond, slaloming its way between a flock of Canada geese and a lone mallard in eclipse plumage.
The shadows lengthened and still I walked, up into a pine forest that whispered on the northwest breeze, past the scolding crows. I walked past the tornado-damaged trees and the drooping brown-eyed susans. I hopped over a tiny, no-name stream, running full again after a rainy week. I heard the patter of a groundhog’s feet as it galloped across a ski slope to get away from me. I saw the doe and fawns grazing up on the hill, raising their heads and twitching their tails as I passed.
I saw the sun fall low against the distant hill and the first stars of evening join the nearly full moon in the sky above before I found my way back. It was only the darkness that brought me back to the cabin. If not for that, I might still be walking.