John and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. Here are some things that I don’t know about the woods: What’s that sound? Where does that chipmunk live? Where are the bears? Was that a deer? Is that poison ivy? Why does that fern look curly? What kind of butterfly is that? Did that stick just scratch me? What lives in that hole? What lives in that other hole? Seriously: I know nothing.
And let me assure you, this was not the wild. We were on the Robert Frost Trail, which is a path not much more than a mile long, completely flat and well-maintained. The trees are labeled if you have dendrological leanings, and there are Frost poems posted along the way for those with a more literary bent. (Favorite: “Reluctance.”) So it’s not exactly as if we were in uncharted territory.
Still, I’m amazed at how much I don’t know. The woods are a mystery to me. I went camping once with my dad, a few other girls, and their dads. If I remember correctly, we walked about half an hour into some woods on a great big path. The dads made us hot dogs, put us to bed, and then made themselves steaks. I was probably about eight — it might have been the last time I saw the inside of a tent.
Despite this, I do really enjoy being outside and out of earshot from the road. I’m curious about what I’m seeing (thank goodness for labeled trees) and every time I head out a little bit, I’m curious about going farther. (And further, if you want to be picky about grammar.)
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that I think Vermont demands at least an appreciation, if not a mastery, of the woods. We have views and trails and mountains here that people come from all over the world to see. Friends Karen, Molly and Svea head out for miles and up mountains, but I know the first time I try that they’ll be carrying me home on an improvised stretcher. Surely I’m better off appreciating nature in my very tame ways, but I really do appreciate it. Maybe this summer I’ll try to find another gentle path or two for the Jennings. Well and clearly marked, of course.