Saturday, March 8, 2014
Walking it seems is always attempting to lead me somewhere. Even in it's most lax, recreational sense jaunting through the woods more often than not involves the inference that I will arrive at some vista point, or river bed or quarry or geologic feature. Perhaps we have committed the fault of hard-wiring our species to seeking out vantage points, high ground, overwhelmed by the constant delusion of getting "somewhere". We have created enough gadgetry to do our most basic of chores and automate our daily tasks so it seems that sometimes we can afford ourselves the luxury of walking for the sake of the act. Wandering, peradventure. Even so, wanderings seem to lead to the traversing of trails or meandering upon known roads, the mere destination obscured, but the terrain too obvious.
Central New York, a land of perpetual winter. Born of snow and ice, it has birthed a labyrinthine series of trails interlocking towns, villages, hamlets and boroughs. They course through forests, gorges, and lakes. Behind the libraries and gas malls, and crossing the occasional general store, these bygone pathways serve the winter traveler solely and perfectly. Hidden to all but the snow shoe shorn, cross country ski clad and snow machine wielding, in the deep dark woods of winter these trails explode with life. The life of transportation, the life of travel. I myself have used them on numerous occasion to journey from my parents home to the center of the village on foot, preferring a move through the solemn quiet woods to hoofing along the blind corners of pavement into town while unknowing automobiles gleefully speed by.
Today, however, I seek only motion, not destination. It was necessary to remove myself from the trail, obviously in order to see what it was I had no idea I was seeking. I think maybe it was spring. I was hungry for the sight of fungi, the possibility that the warm spur awakened something, having bore witness only to perennial polypores, overwintered and left leathery hard like wooden abscess marring the oak and fir trees. Among a winter of lifeless apparitions of plant life left as scrawny scraggly banners waving their malnourished shadows between the sunlight and snow I desired new flora. I wanted to see some stirring after nearly five months of sub-freezing temperature and near constant snow.
A truffle misplaced in the brush? Close examination shows it to be the dried remains of some fruit. Splitting the skin yields olfactory response most akin to sucrose. What was that thing anyway?
It had been winter since leaving Alaska in September and I had found it throughout the United states in five weeks driving to New York and then after a few weeks of beloved northeastern autumn winter had dug in deep again and this year wasn't letting go.
I was armed with pockets of cameras and dried mushrooms. Looking for chaga, birch, any taste of the forest I think. In my psyche the only cure for what ailed my flailing limbs was to imbibe some of the nectar that only wild boon can impart. When you go in search of the minute you find such, but more so their position in the larger over arching systems that act on our landscape. Seemingly barren, almost tundra like, plodding into the overburden that exists yields healthy interactions. It's all there, the forest is behaving exactly as it should. Climb a fallen limb...sixty degree angle, find the ensconced cache of some mid size mammals scat. Bobcat? Coyote? From the road we see only fields of white and lifeless limbs, upon a closer critique, the forest is behaving exactly as it should.