All day yesterday, I knew there was something I had forgotten about, but I wasn’t sure what.
I hiked on the Amazon Headwaters trail near my house which I hadn’t done in a while because my feet are messed up, and I haven’t been able to navigate the uneven uphill and then downhill trail I love so much. Instead, I drive to another trail in the woods that I know is flat and easy to navigate. But yesterday, I put caution to the wind, and I trekked up the neighborhood trail past a pumpkin with a sign below it that said to look for 15 small pumpkins, past the bridge across Amazon Creek and the secret magical trails and Douglas firs and maples, towards the woods. I just wanted to see what “my” trail was like. The last time I visited, a crew was working on the trail, and there were many loose rocks at the beginning which made it almost impossible for me with posterior tibial tendonitis and gastrocnemius equinus in both feet and ankles. This condition appeared at the end of May and has messed with my psyche, my physical pain, and my life. Sauntering through the woods is what I do… and to get to all the trailheads, you gotta climb that Amazon Headwaters trail. Not drive to the trailhead.
I’ve found some new friends to hike with. They’re perfect because they love to take it slow and check everything out. Right now, I must take it slow if I’m going to hike at all. I reached the trailhead with no problem and looked up at the trail. It looked much smoother. Maybe they fixed the part of the trail they’ve been working on! I decided to check it out. I reached my favorite tree, a beautiful Douglas Fir, not too young, not too old I think. I embraced the tree as if I would embrace an old friend because I hadn’t seen “her” in a while. then I learned against it feeling its strength. I continued to trek on the trail. Ahhh, yes, much easier now to manage. I usually don’t like it when trails such as this one are messed with, taking away its natural beauty. But now that I have foot problems, I almost embrace it because the trail is “doable” again, though not ideal for my particular condition. I figured what the heck? I’m having surgery on my right foot in December anyway, right? Go for it. I made it all the way to the second bridge where the trail is now much smoother and less uneven. The rest of the trail remains the same. I made it all the way to the special bench where I saw for a few moments. It felt so good, almost magical to climb my favorite trail once again. I decided to trek a bit further past the fairy house. I was delighted to see a figure of a fairy standing in the doorway. She reminded me of my granddaughter Charlotte. I smiled and then ironically a few moments later, I found a painted rock with the words, “Smile,” written in light purple.
My feet didn’t hurt that much when I returned from my journey, but they did feel “tired.” I attended a Zoom meeting with some of my writer friends. Then I remembered.
Yesterday would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. She’s been gone since 1997. All the things that have occurred these past two weeks leading up to Mom. The visit to California and to where I grew up in San Francisco. Even the magic of the trail yesterday. And most of all, the video I took of my five-year-old granddaughter Charlotte with her stories and commentary as we hiked on the trail near her home that she chose. (Not an easy trail). She claimed we’d walk 36 miles and that’s how far she always walked. When I asked about hills, she said there were 115 hills and 100 unicorn miles. She explained that the unicorns lived in the clouds and that they watched over her. Then we saw a deer hopping across the field, not just running, but hopping. I had never seen anything like it before. Neither had Charlotte. She said the deer’s name is Sam, and she knew her well.
Tears filled my eyes as I remembered mom and wished that she had gotten to know her great-grandkids and grandkids. When I look at Charlotte, I see pieces of myself and my mother and my daughters in her…and she’s also her own unique self. She even became dramatic at one point, saying, “If we walk 36 miles, we won’t find out way back! We’ll be lost forever!” and looked down sadly. Oh yes, she got that from my Mom for sure.
By Paul DeLong
On October 30, 2022
“I’ve found some new friends to hike with. They’re perfect because they love to take it slow and check everything out… I must take it slow if I’m going to hike at all.” Good fortune, and good planning. 🙂
“I embraced the tree as if I would embrace an old friend… then I leaned against it feeling its strength.” Inspiring, touching.
“I smiled… a few moments later, I found a painted rock with the words, “Smile,” written in light purple.” Ironic, yes, but also a soft reminder that the world is full of affirmation and surprises.
“…saw a deer hopping across the field … hopping. I had never seen anything like it before. Neither had Charlotte. She said the deer’s name is Sam, and she knew her well.” A child’s imagiation is a gift to be cherished, even to “hang out” with.
“If we walk 36 miles …We’ll be lost forever!” … Oh yes, she got that from mother.” The almost startling irony here is as touching as all the other vignettes in the piece. Strong ending. Thanks for posting!