Two days ago, I went for a walk around our property. There are twenty acres of fields, young woods, and a small pond where we once released an orphaned turtle. I always make plans in my head to circle the property once a week, to get up early enough to hike it before school or to make time on the weekend, but it rarely happens. I think how nice it would be to find one spot near the pond, or up along the edge of the mowed field to take a picture once a week for a year, and to look back at those pictures at year’s end, seeing the changes wrought by the earth’s slight tilt and the progression of seasons it brings. A nice idea, but I haven’t done it yet. Most days there are too many things to do, and a walk just isn’t possible. It’s been that way since I started taking hikes. I never get out as much as I want, and I always plan to do it more. Sometimes a month will go by, two or three, sometimes only a week or two, and I feel a need, and urge, to get myself outside. Leading up to Violet’s birth and in the weeks since, I haven’t thought too much about it, but the urge made itself known two days ago, and out I went with binoculars, my notebook, and a couple field guides.
I wanted to decide which maples to tap this year; with a thaw predicted for this weekend, it’s possible the sap would begin to flow. I also wanted to gather some wild rose hips for tea. I followed the same route I’ve walked dozens of times: around the wild rose thicket, past the garden, down the hill to the pond, and up into the woods. Usually when I walk, I remember things I’ve seen on past walks – a bluebird box that held a clutch of wren eggs last spring, the maple tree at who’s feet I found my first wild ginger flower, the raspberry bush that yielded us a gallon of berries two summers ago, the branch on the yellow birch that knocked out my contact lens last fall. This walk had my mind working in the opposite direction. It was as if I was remembering things that hadn’t happened yet, things that I hoped would happen: Violet tottering along behind me, swiping at tufts of dandelion seeds floating by, Violet grasping at pondside frogs, laughing as they slide through her tiny fingers, Violet holding tightly onto the bucket as I pour in another load of sap. What I saw was like the sap – clear and sweet.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself. She may not grow into a person who loves the outdoors, and this thought occurred to me as I examined the small, reddish bud at the end of a branch on an elm tree, trying to figure out if the tree was an American elm or a slippery elm. Most people wouldn’t care wouldn't care what kind of tree it was, let alone which species of elm. What if Violet was one of those people? Could I accept that? I think I could. As for the elm, it turned out to be an American. The scales on the bud have dark edges and lack tiny hairs. It’s very clear if one takes the time to look.