One hundred fifty-nine (159) – that’s how many calories I burn when I walk two miles round trip to the bridge on Trout Brook Road. I don’t, however, concentrate on that magic number. Instead, my attention is turned solely to my senses, to what I see, hear, smell, and feel as I become immersed in nature.
Over the past few years, I have been so accustomed to the hurry and scurry of daily teaching life, that it is gradually dawning on me that I have slowed down. Part of this slowing down process is an appreciation for life around me. Granted, I have traded suburban life for country living – what a delicious choice!
When I walk alone down Trout Brook, I play little games. How many cars/trucks will pass me on the road during today’s trek? Two? Three? The answer is, “Never many!” That fact allows me the privilege of concentrating on my surroundings.
Trout Brook Road has a north slope incline that is part of Oliver Hill, with the south slope decline eventually smoothing out to meet the Minerva and Trout Brook Streams. Early in the morning, the south slope is dark and lush with deep green, making it difficult to see clearly into the woods. However, the north slope holds gems for the eyes, made possible by the slant of the early sun. Often, the sun’s rays will slide at a 45 degree angle across the road, making for a visible feast of light beams.
Caw! Caw! Sounds are flowing high above my head, as the black crow warns other birds that a human is approaching. The woodpecker takes no heed, never interrupting the insects he is seeking by pecking a hole in the side of his chosen tree. A walk later in the day would reveal the many grasshoppers, who noisily rub their legs, making the humming noise that is background to country living. As water pools or slowly trickles down the side of the road, entering the rivulets that dump into the two streams, frogs use this area for their habitat. From afar, I hear a frog or a group of them singing, chirping, burping to each other. But the second they hear my approach, you would never know they existed.
Unfortunately, the roadway becomes a grave for many unsuspecting small creatures. It is not unusual to see a splayed frog, small snake, squirrel, chipmunk, or even a larger animal such as a raccoon or fox that misjudged the safety of crossing to the other side of the road. Their flattened carcasses cause me to pause and ponder on the brevity and frailty of life. One day I happened upon a small black-and-white garter snake that had stopped “dead” in its tracks upon sensing that I was approaching. Taking a small twig, I nudged it, hoping to steer it to safety back into the woods. That tiny snake opened wide its mouth for protection, revealing a bright red lining. It snapped at the twig fearlessly and then slowly made its escape off the pavement, through the pine needles along side of the road and finally into the tall grass that led into the forest. Yes, one of nature’s creatures saved for another day!
Often, I will return home and my husband will ask, “How was your walk?” “Fine,” is the general answer, and yet if I were to detail for him what I saw and experienced, many days I would have to describe a black hole of thought and senses. The time stepping down Trout Brook becomes a big void, where my mind is put in neutral and I can move without registering that I am, indeed, exercising. What a contrast to most of my time spent in living, where I am acutely aware of what must be done, of time constraints, of goals to be met, or even of planned pleasures.
Burning one hundred fifty-nine calories represents a lot of effort. If I were taking this walk solely for exercise, it would be a sad effort. What this nature walk gives to me, though, is a quiet time in nature with several of God’s creatures, and most assuredly plants, trees, and flowers. It is a feast, but one that doesn’t put any calories back on my body.
By Joy Healy