Walking in the woods

Tina Weikert

Special to the Banner

The way my house is set on the land, I have immediate access to Vermont State Forest by walking out my door. Down the deck I wander in to the yard, passing the shed and compost area and following the wooden sign marked "Tomten" (a story for another day), I can head directly into the woods from that point. Not a day goes by that I take this simple feat for granted.     

Once on my tree trajectory there is no stopping me. I could be gone for hours, or I might only need walk out to the log that sprawls across a deep divot and sit for a few moments, breathing deep as I survey my beloved swamp. In no way is it mine per see, but that fused feeling we all experience at one time or another of being communal with something, that oneness is what tempts my use of pet name pronouns.     

From the log I can continue on and on. I've explored enough over these accumulated years to know that going left means I best pay attention because the setting quickly gets wild and deep. Twenty feet in and I am plunged into what feels like unexplored territory every time unless I am looking closely for familiar clues. That direction is dense with trees and a cooling atmosphere. At times there are steep climbs and boulders to surmount, but if I'm really on point I eventually make it to the more familiar cross-country ski and V.A.S.T trails and the Gale Meadow Pond parking lot beyond those. In winter snowshoes are needed, in summer bug spray and extra water, but no matter the time of year (excepting for the few days stretch in spring when no one goes anywhere because of the bugs) I am smitten with myself when I materialize from the wood line to view the impressive water spread before me. I'll also admit it is kind of fun to emerge on to the pavement and have visiting folks turn to see what has sprung from the depths of forest and two town roads.

To turn right from that felled log begins the story of an entirely different journey; one I tend to make more often than not. It's my auto pilot walk. The kind of expeditions we take when we need to climb into our own heads and sort out matters, or when just the opposite is needed and escape is the word of the day, but brain power devoted to the trail is not. Instead, those brain waves are devoted to other topics: I'll occasionally bring along my phone because if a difficult call need be made, this is the setting I prefer. I can focus on the task at hand, while feeling cradled by my woods (endearing pronoun again). This direction has a deer trail through ferns that throw a cinnamony scent in to the air when I brush against them. A tree with such a large knob that no one should ever miss it and a creek that always runs, but tells me the season by how high it is. Pines sweep across a moderate ascent with plenty of ground timber to scramble over, but the rewards are blackberry and raspberry and blueberry bushes lining the cut where power lines pass through. Stratton Mountain winks in the far distance.

The unique gift that this side offers is that with a familiar walk through the woods and a handful of berries gathered, I descend out the other side onto a gravel road, which leads to another, which passes a small pond, which leads to a friend's house. The jaunt completed in under a half hour, and all without walking on anything but public state forest and two town roads.

In New England it is rather clich to mention taking a "walk in the woods," but Thoreau was a master for good reason and master ideas are mimicked over and over. Why? Because just as convertibles will always cruise the Pacific Coast Highway, and babies will always be more adorable in overalls, and quoting Stephen Hawking in public will make everyone in the room feel smarter, and brown paper packages are best tied up with string grand scheme thoughts are repeated because they shimmer with delightfully precise truth. They certainly become favorite things in life because our lives are enriched by them.

Thoreau may have walked the woods before me, Bill Bryson as well, but just as there is a commonality in our shared experience, there is originality too with every foot along my own bushwhacked path. To close with a Thoreau quote would seem fitting, but I'm not going to do it. Rather, get out there and create one of your own.

Tina Weikert lives in Bondville


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