Jo Ann Jaacks: Reflections on a walk in the woods

A walk in the woods can be whatever you want to make of it.

My 45-minute morning walk usually takes place in a park that is relatively smooth and level so I can move briskly. Regularly, to shake things up, I walk in the nearby Audubon Sanctuary which is more adventurous and definitely a rougher trek. It’s a good-sized area with a bordering brook, ponds and lovely vernal pools, and diverse habitats including one for eastern cottontails. There are also downed branches and sometimes a downed tree bisecting the marked trail, diminutive boulders are all about and animal hidey-holes are hidden within the path. That definitely impedes any briskness, but this place is named a sanctuary for a reason, so I don’t begrudge a slower pace.

The intersection of the white and blue trails brought to mind Robert Frost’s famous poem beginning “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . .” We’re in summer now so the only yellowing in the woodlands is sunburned and trampled grass. I doubt that was Frost’s reference. Then I happened upon one of the vernal pools, suffused with morning mist. The hues were subtle but once I perceived the colors beneath the surface, I was transfixed by the interplay of everything from yellow to cerulean and dark viridian.

Then, striding across an open field with a curving mown path, the 40-shades-of-green palette materialized. I decided to take the yellow trail, also known as Windy Woods, which begins with a narrow entryway flanked by stone walls. It’s the longest trail, and the only one I hadn’t yet hiked. Evidently, it’s also “the one less traveled by,” since I ran into spider webs slung between the trees, more downed trees than usual, hard turns and steep scrambles up mossy stones. The path also followed a small stream that morphed into a tributary of the bordering brook, complete with a footbridge and soft babbling, no doubt fueled by the early rain showers.

The trail led to a high meadow and the windy woods came into play. A striped snake was stretched out on a nearby boulder, awaiting sunlight to find its way through the leaves. He paid me no mind and I gave him a wide berth. After scaling a rough stile in the stonewall, I was somewhat winded myself. I plunked down on one of the benches overlooking a charming pond. Sitting in stillness for five minutes, I watched all the birds return to the feeders scattered about. An inquisitive chipmunk ran up the grass path, stood on his hind legs, the better to observe me.

Gazing down at the lily pads floating on still water, I remembered the pond down the road from my childhood home. It wasn’t fit for swimming — too much silt and too many leeches — but just staring into the water was a happy pastime, skipping pebbles across the surface, searching for pollywog eggs to scoop up and bring home to grow our own frogs, skating in the winter, looking through ice so clear it felt like gliding on crystal.

My 45-minute walk silently expanded into an hour’s worth of retreat. Lately it seems the world is full of howling winds and misery, where something bad is always happening.

It’s pure bliss to be in a place where nothing, and everything, happens.

Connecticut Media Group