Monday, May 31, 2010

Week 8: It is a quiet walk...

Of all the wonderful walks I have enjoyed in Bracebridge, my favourite by far continues to be along River and Wilson’s Falls Roads. Have you walked it yet?  No?  Oh, do!  Stretching about 2 miles from the historic downtown section beginning at Taylor Road right up to Wilson Falls, this section of the Trans Canada Trail takes one gentle twisting turn after another as it hugs alongside the North Branch of the Muskoka River.  It is accessible and beautiful regardless of season.

This trail, even more than others for some reason, seems to be so much about life.   And the seasons of life.   There is the winding river itself and the bustling wildlife maintaining homes along its banks.  And there is the ribbon of trees stretching the entire length of trail - one non-ending string from beginning to end.  I am made freshly aware each hike out that no two trees seem ever to look just alike, no two greens ever seem to quite match entirely.  And the emeralds of the towering pines and deciduous forest leaves reflect back in even deeper saturation up from the river’s still, end-of-day waters.

Everyday there appears to be a new wildflower or weed about to burst open adding a new colour to the mix of the landscape.  And the fragrance – oh, this time of year on a hot sultry evening, the perfume of trees, and wildflowers and wood and water fill you right up full.  There is no perfumery anywhere capable of reproducing the heady fragrances of the woods, banks and waterways along that section of river edge. Beginning with the bushy lilacs at Anne Street still redolent in spring bouquet but sharper now with summer heat, to the very end of the trail at Wilson Falls and mineral scents rising from rushing waters.  Every turn the aromas change as the flowers and wild shrubs mix and re-assort themselves.  There is absolutely nothing in the medicine cabinet or in the wine cellar to equal the healthful mellow and soul-soothing affect of all that.  Now, after walking the trail for some time, I mentally note the small roadmarks along the way – the rough summer docks floating in wait for a canoe or kayak to reappear; a charming tree house ladder leading up to lofty, leafy heights with full river-view seating; the striking drama of the bleached smooth boulders at Bass Rock, and further on, a hidden lookout point, a favourite spot for young lovers sitting closely in peace to talk away into the fading evening hours.

It is a quiet walk.  Somewhere to empty out the days concerns, let go of the weight of worries and free the soul to see and drink in all there is. Tonight, only 2 cars pass, 5 people and one very special golden retriever, panting in obvious delight at the start of summer and new things to chase.  And a lone beaver out for a swim, more of a float really.  Have you noticed what graceful swimmers beavers are?  How expertly they dive straight down deep into their den vestibules?  This little guy tonight seemed content to let the river carry him effortlessly along.  Until suddenly, his attention caught by something entirely unseen to me, he scrambled up onto land, scarcely two feet away.  Thankfully his interest didn't stop at my feet but rather he found something beyond my vision and carried back his secret prize to water’s edge, diving sharply home with it below.

This time of year the walks are mostly joyful.  It feels so good to walk winter tightness out of bones and muscles and drink in a little natural Vitamin D.  Everywhere there is evidence of nature’s determination to grow, expand into any available nook and cranny and thrive MADLY.  Sadly though, death is also part of life’s seasons and tonight on my way back home there lay a very beautiful and well-fed gray squirrel, dead not more than a few moments from auto impact.  Still perfectly formed except for the small trauma to her head, the mother squirrel lay there bright-eyed with her beautiful white belly exposed. It was hard to believe, looking at her soft gray fur, that her last breath had been breathed.  I lifted her warm body, carrying it over to a tree by the river’s edge, settling her down for a final rest amongst tall grasses and small flowers.  And I covered her.  Every life in death deserves privacy, respect, dignity.

Walking in nature for me rights a lot of wrongs, mends wounds, coaxes out the heart’s joy and opens up the eyes wide to the little things in life I just never otherwise notice.  Now, please, don’t get me wrong.  I am not, repeat NOT, a ‘Miss Merry Sunshine’ kind of gal, seeing light and love at every turn.  I AM a growingly cantankerous woman ‘of age’, thoroughly set in my ways, and determinedly more so every advancing year.  And I plan to remain just so, thank you, kindly.  But these walks in nature surely soften the roughly hewn edges of life.  They are an opportunity in an otherwise busy world to listen, see and feel life with one’s very soul.  To connect with the natural world of which we are part.  To gain a renewed sense of where we are in our own personal continuum of time.  To glimpse for a moment, place and purpose of life.

I hope you will all tie on your runners, pack a water bottle and head out onto the trails near you real soon.

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week...

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NOTE regarding the Wilson Falls Trail:
If you are driving there, try any of the many free downtown parking spots near Taylor Road.  However, check any parking limits that might apply.  Or you can arrive by the bright red Santa’s Village Trolley (say hi to one of it’s drivers , Irene, well known for her friendly smile and cheery disposition.  One of Irene's runs is along Taylor Road. She'll point out River Road and the TransCanada Trail if you like - just ask her!  Trolley rides are  just Saturdays for now but start daily runs beginning June 19th until Labour Day weekend.  The schedules are listed at many trolley stops. Or come by rail via the Ontario Northland service… it arrives just steps away from Taylor Road.  An excellent Ontario Northland bus service to town, arrives at various times daily at the southern end of town (Riverside Inn) closer to 3 other walking trails and a couple of parks that I will tell you about later as summer goes on.  Happy Trails!

BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind:  It was definitely a case of matter over mind this week.  I do NOT like the humidity.  Heat's okay; humidity not so much.  Just hours before the heat wave ended last week, I thought my nerves would crack - but a long walk with my camera around Bracebridge Bay removed all the prickly nettles that had been stalking about in my brain!  Walking is good for the body, the soul AND THE MIND!  And so is taking pictures!
Body:  Down ANOTHER 2 pounds.  Yippee!  Blood pressure now firmly lowered into the normal range.  High normal, still. There's a ways to go yet.  But how encouraging.  All without pills.  All from the joy of walking about with nature in beautiful Bracebridge.
The Artist Soul:  There were a lot of moments this week.  A little girl about two years, called Boomie who allowed me to take her picture in all the glory of her pink-everything couture, an older couple with their arms firmly wrapped about one another - still lovers in their older years, looking squarely and quite surprisedly into a beaver's eyes from scarcely two feet distance, drinking in the tree-reflection beauty of a hundred shades of green shimmering in the gentle ripples of the Muskoka River.  But the biggest connection was one with the heady scent as I walked in the damp evening heat along Wilson Falls Trail.  It was filling, fulfilling and carried within it so many stories.