Saturday, July 22, 2006


I set out this morning in no particular mood. I had that all-too-common inertia where a body at rest on a dreary morning tends to stay that way, but I reminded myself that, like going for a run or swim, I never come back from a trip to the woods without being glad I did. So, I packed my bag and headed out the door, trusting that my wandering would lead me to a good mood.

As soon as I turned from the busy street onto the lower slope of Moose Hill Parkway, I began to hear a few birds. A Carolina wren, a robin and a catbird were singing and chortling. A chipping sparrow led me up the hill, flushing in front of my bicycle, flying up the road a few yards, landing and doing it again and again about a dozen times.

I found my mood changing to one of hope. Now, hope might be regarded as a luxury in what seems like a world gone mad. News from the Middle East offers no hope. Surely, missiles in Asia carry no payloads of hope. A source of hope is being snatched from those with incurable disease and injury. My modest hope at the moment was for a couple of hours of quiet exploration, observation and contemplation. I could feel my anticipation growing.

About half way up the hill, my hopes were raised yet again. Even shredding the cuff of my favorite field pants in the bicycle chain didn’t dampen my spirits. I paused at a house that is being renovated. This property is nicely situated just off the parkway where an intersecting street forms a switchback on a piny hillside. This house was for sale last year and, based on the fashion around here these days, I felt sure the lot would be scalped and the small unique home would be torn down to make way for the largest possible McMansion. To my considerable relief, it appears that the new owner is undertaking a careful and tasteful renovation. It gives me hope to see that there are still some people with the vision and courage to create a comfortable and sensible home that is appropriate for its site and for our times.

Nearby, I stepped off the road, walked down a trail and parked the bike. In keeping with the mood of the moment, even the deer flies and mosquitoes were hopeful as they quickly picked up my trail of carbon dioxide and body heat. I was prepared once again with long clothing, hat and spray. Moving down the trail, I soon heard the thrumming of a bird flying on stubby wings. A fledgling wood thrush paused to study what may have been its first human being before flying clumsily into the woods. I took that young bird as a sign of hope that in future years there will still be thrush melodies to massage my moods as I walk in the forest.

A little further along, I found a small American chestnut, Castanea dentata. This tree was once probably the most important species in the hardwood forests of the Eastern U.S. Then, just about a century ago an Asian fungus, the chestnut blight, began to destroy this majestic and valuable tree. Now, it is found only as sprouts from old roots and these sprouts soon succumb to the disease. They keep sprouting back, clinging to life for decades, as if hoping that some day a young genius will discover a miraculous cure and no one will be standing in the way with a veto pen.

It was an exceptionally still morning. No breeze stirred a leaf. Thick humidity from last night’s rain hung in the air. A heavy overcast muted the light. An occasional large drop of water fell loudly through the leaves. Few birds moved or sang. Suddenly, I heard a loud clacking coming through the mist and trees. Few things around here are large enough to make that much noise, and my hunch about the source of the sound was confirmed when I heard a loud snorting. The repeated forceful exhalations – obviously coming from a large, angry animal – could have been frightening if I didn’t recognize the sound of a deer. I couldn’t see the animal, but I assume it saw me and was snorting its irritation at my intrusion. Or, maybe it was just a buck signaling his hopes for the coming rutting season.

A little later, I discovered another great spot. A large, high outcropping of bedrock, like the hard old bones of New England sticking through the flesh and skin of the surrounding glacial deposits, offered a wonderful place to sit for breakfast. This place was so quiet, with the solitude and thick air that even the bugs gave me a break and my chewing on a bagel was the loudest sound in my head. Other than a few chickadees and titmice, only my loyal companion, the wood thrush, could be heard. Even my taunting pewees and ovenbirds were silent. A recent fire pit made me speculate about early explorers that may have camped on this vantage point in millennia gone by. I became thankful that this place still existed so a twenty-first century man could find a moment of peace, and I was hopeful that it would be this way for generations to come.

Breakfast done, I lingered for a few more minutes enjoying the moment and feeling happy to simply exist. I felt lucky to have a little time away from TVs, radios, advertisements, computers, telephones, cars and nagging voices. I picked up my pack and headed for home, wondering if there are ways to preserve and prolong good feelings when we find them.

Moods are funny things. Sometimes bad ones come crashing in. Sad ones may sneak up on us. Maybe good ones need a little help and cultivation. I opened my mind to good moods this morning and they found me. Even the rain that began to fall as soon as I stepped back onto the road didn’t dampen my hope.

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At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, a thoughtful and wise essay. I enjoyed your offering.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger MojoMan said...

Thanks, Mom!

But seriously, thanks for your generous words. I'm still working in my own mind on why I am blogging, who the intended audience might be, where this might be going, etc. I never expect a large audience, but it's nice to know someone is reading.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

Absolutely lovely! I felt as if I was riding along with you enjoying the wonderful sights!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!!!

At 11:15 AM, Blogger robin andrea said...

This is beautifully written. It really captures the moment. Hope and peace are truly internal things that emerge in the quiet of the wood. Many other footsteps might find their way on this path, but bring with them their own chattering mind, and thus not find the hope you found.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger MojoMan said...

Thanks to anonymous, Sharon and Robin Andrea for your kind comments. I understand that all this text and no photos requires an above-average commitment by the reader. It's wonderful to know you took the time to join me on my trip to the woods. I hope you'll come with me again.


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