I took Violet for a walk at Beaver Meadow a few days ago. It’s a nature center just down the road from our house, and it’s where I had my first, real, “grown up” job - as the staff naturalist. I felt fortunate beyond words when I landed the job, partly because such jobs are rare and partly because the job required me to live on site. One house surrounded by 324 acres of wild preserve. I felt like Thoreau, or I assumed I did because I hadn’t gotten around to reading any at that point, but I felt like I had my own Walden Pond and a big patch of woods to wander through. Part of my duties included writing nature articles for the Center’s newsletter, and for the first time, I felt like something close to a “real” writer. I was getting paid to write, and people I didn’t know were likely reading what I wrote. One article I always wanted to write, but never got around to, was one on walking the same trail over and over again, and how you could see something new every time. The thought occurred to me one day as I hiked the trail that runs along the Beaver Pond. It was a trail I had walked hundreds of times – by myself, with groups of kids, adults, or both in tow, with friends, and on that day, it struck me that if I took the time to look, I could find something new on the trail each time I went down it. It might be something temporary like a mink track or the shell from a robin’s egg, something slightly less fleeting, such as the white-petalled blossom of a may apple or the papery shed skin of a dragonfly nymph, but it could just as likely be something permanent that for some reason I’d never noticed, like the perfect view of the pond from a certain spot on the trail or a cucumber tree that I failed to recognize growing amidst the maples.
The memory of this never-written-down idea came to mind as I carried Violet down the steps that led to the Beaver Pond Trail. At the beginning of the trial is a sign explaining what beaver cuttings are all about. It’s a sign I read in it’s entirety only once, when I first came to Beaver Meadow. From then on, I passed it by, confident that I knew what it had to say, but I stopped and read it to Violet, and I did the same with the sign describing the fern garden and with the one that showed the inner workings of a beaver lodge. We felt the cracked and split wooden railing of the small, pondside boardwalk; Violet couldn’t stop running her fingertips back and forth its surface, and, as I wrote in Saturday’s post, we were lucky enough to find a robin’s nest with hatchlings.
Walking back to the car with her, I should have been talking to her, continuing my play-by-play, but I was distracted, thinking how I once realized that a single trail could be walked many times and continually reveal something new, but this time, I figured out that walking a trail with Violet will make every inch of it new again for me – because that’s what it is for her.