A Safe Place

It was another lovely day on the trail today. We’re approaching that time of the year when extremes are commonplace. Below zero wind chill one day, and 36 degrees and sunny the next, to be followed by a wintry mix and then snow. There is a lot more bird activity on the trail these days. The cardinals and chickadees are especially vocal.

As I walked along, I kept my eyes open for something new to discover on the trail today. I make it a point to observe and not just look, but also really see the environment around me. Up ahead on the trail, I saw my something new as a mink darted across the trail and down into the ditch. Once up to the place I thought I saw him duck, I noticed a culvert about a foot in diameter connecting the area between the walking trail and the horse trail. This must have been where he went–an inaccessible place for a human anyway, but a perfectly safe place if you’re about 1 1/2 foot long and about 6 inches high at your shoulder.

Farther down the trail however, I observed an odd figure of a man walking towards me. He swung his arms in an exaggerated, almost grotesque fashion. I tensed up a bit. I hadn’t seen him on the trail before. As we passed I noticed that the arm-swaying stopped. I smiled and said hello in a gesture of trail etiquette. He said nothing, nor acknowledged me. I was more than a little happy for the sunny day and the shadows I kept an eye to on either side of me as I continued on. I have to admit feeling a bit uneasy about the stranger. Call it woman’s intuition or paranoia, but there was something I didn’t like about him or possibly feared.

I came to the end of the trail and turned around to complete my circuit. I wasn’t too far on my way back when I observed the odd man approaching me again. I reached for my cell phone and called my husband. I rambled a bit as I approached the man on the trail again. It felt comforting to hear his voice on the phone and when I was out of earshot, I explained my call.

Afterwards I thought what a sad state of affairs when I am fearful on a trail in the woods, a place I consider a sanctuary. How sad that the ugliness of the “outside” world should permeate this place filled with gentle breezes and bird song. I thought again of the mink on the trail. I would never have hurt him nor chased him. Yet he feared me all the same and ran off. The lesson that Nature gave me today was to be aware of my surroundings and always keep a close eye on the trail.