People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it - walk.
I wasn't supposed to be walking along the paved path this morning, not alone, not at anytime or any day, but I had abandoned my first route—an attempt to reach the falls at the western end of the 252 acre reservoir—when I came nearly face to face with a fox halted on all fours. I noticed his red coat partially hidden by brush and I knew he had been tracking me as I approached his immediate territory. Not wishing to take any chances with a potentially rabid animal, I decided to slowly pivot back east, back through the rain-soaked leaves and muddy trail, back toward my car, the lone car, parked behind a local Masonic lodge. As I retreated I pulled my car keys from my coat pocket and shook them like a noisemaker just to let that fox know who was boss, all the while hoping he wouldn't come at me from behind, not looking back, not once.
There's a small baseball field at the northern end of the lodge's parking lot, backing up along the reservoir, and on the eastern side of the lot stands a chain link fence protecting the water supply. I hadn't before noticed that the reservoir curled around so closely to the field, which I'd been to only once or twice, late spring several years back when the boy used to play ball, long after he had confessed to me, but before he had worked up enough nerve to tell his father—who kept signing him up, spring and fall, year after year—that his heart just didn't connect with the game. Pulling grass and snapping at butterflies in the outfield should have been sign enough, but not to father's of mighty-armed, left handed boys.
[I wondered if it weren't denial (well, of course it was) that kept my husband from noticing what seemed so very obvious to me. I'd grown up with ball players. My dad, who'd coached, let his tomboy daughter (for whom, at the time, no hardball league existed) practice with his team and keep stats. I loved the game as much as my dad and brothers, and I knew when a boy was in love with it too. A boy gently smoothing a stitched, leather-covered hardball in his hands like it were a sacred thing, or stepping into the batter's box, face lowered and serious, as if it were a confessional and he was ready for release. Almighty God, let it go, set me free! There was a level of intimacy with the sport that my son just never felt. And that was okay with me. Eventually—after a mourning spell—it was alright with his father, too.]
With the morning chill and drizzle intensifying, I plodded through the thick brush along the fence at the edge of a cemetery and church bordering the reservoir and found the fence trailed off where the woods opened up beyond the hallowed grounds. At the risk of a $500.00 fine and imprisonment for up to one year, it was there I transgressed and climbed an unobstructed embankment to find a winding, smoothed asphalt path at its crest, surrounding the reservoir. (Damn the electronic surveillance and penalties. Tell me how one turns away from this path?) It was from this perspective that I could see nearly the whole of the reservoir. The view was grace, pure grace. Alone, in the midst of this serene form, I put down the knotty stick that I had picked up along the way, and stood looking at the water, the grey mist rising from it, the leaf-lined path, the evergreen and flora fringe, before freezing the moment with the camera built into my cell phone, its shutter sound effect slicing the moist air.
And then I looked straight ahead and walked.
* * *
Sharon Van Etten is a young singer/songwriting from New Jersey who spent her college years in Tennessee. It was there that she found the music that was to influence her highly personal songwriting. In the past three years she's put out just as many albums, and has found a solid American fan base.
Pitchfork, on Van Etten's debut album, Because I Was In Love:
Most crucial to the album's success, however, is Van Etten's unerring sense for crafting memorable, seductive melodies. Here again she takes no shortcuts, as she largely forgoes standard verse-chorus repetition in favor of a more organic style, with wonderful songs like "For You" and "Holding Out" gently unwinding like the lines across a hand-drawn road map. Even in a folk scene that can sometimes feel over-crowded, Because I Was in Love positions Sharon Van Etten immediately towards the front of the pack.
And We Are Fine, from Tramp (2012)
NPR calls Van Etten "hypnotically complicated." I think she's going to stick around long enough to hypnotize many of us. You can find more on her latest album here.
Jayne, I held my breath while reading this, not wishing to disturb the fox or the pristine spell of the morning. I saw your boy on the field, and felt his boredom and guilt.ReplyDelete
When you write; it is magic. I usually have to re-read because I get so caught up with the beauty of each sentence that I forget to put them together.
This was stunning.
Leah- The whole day was stunning--after I left the reservoir and the woods and picked up a coffee and returned home, put my rose in a tall, thin shot glass, and settled in to transfer pictures to my laptop the sun made itself known in a grand style. I thought, gee, it couldn't shine on me for my morning walk? But had it, the photos I took over the water would have had too much of a glare factor, so I guess it worked out well for me. I suppose the dark, misty air added to my contemplative mood.Delete
And the fox made my heart beat just a wee bit faster. ;)
(The boy is so much happier devoting his time to soccer and running--and his guitar, of course. At almost 15, he's really staring to come into himself, gaining more confidence each day. It's a beautiful thing to witness.)
Beautiful morning! Solitary, misty, rain-soaked, your thoughts all to yourself...ReplyDelete
You were wise to steer clear of the fox. My friend's daughter was attacked and bitten by a fox on the UVA campus last year while walking to class! She had to undergo rabies shots since they never found the fox.
I know, Leonora, thoughts to myself--I almost feel a bit selfish on mornings like this--I think I'm still not entirely comfortable having such special time to myself. It's an adjustment after working in corporate for so many years. But I suppose I'm not having too much trouble adjusting to finally having time to write!Delete
The fox attack is a scary story. And on the UVA campus, too boot. (That's a beautiful campus--one of my son's college choices--good School of Architecture.) Hope your daughter's friend is recovering well. We have had some rabid animals in these parts, so I don't think it's prudent to try to make friends with wild beasts, you never know. At that point in my walk I hadn't picked up a walking stick, either, nor had anything else in my hands in which to defend myself, so I thought it best to retreat.
I love the feel of your words, but at the risk of sounding goody goody, reservoirs are blocked off from humans for a reason especially if it's for drinking water. We have to preserve these spaces even if its alluring. People trespass here on our reservoirs and for me I find it hard to understand why. There are many other places to find quiet and nature without breaking the law. Hope you'll reconsider next time :)ReplyDelete
EcoGrrl--No risks voicing your concerns here. I understand how you feel. I shouldn't have trespassed, and am ordinarily mindful of the law (after all, it was my business for many, many years). I was careful not to disturb anything on my walk, and not to venture down the bank that meets the water source--which may have sent stones tumbling into the reservoir. The interesting thing is that there's a gate at the far end of the water source for town or water dept. vehicles to enter and drive the paved road around the reservoir. I'd think it would do more damage to the immediate environment to have vehicles emitting toxic fumes than to have quiet walkers mindful of leaving nothing behind except for soft footprints.Delete
In any event, I don't plan on returning, as I have plenty of other perfectly legal routes to follow, although I'm glad I got a look at a beautiful site I hadn't seen in the 13 years I've been in this town.
It is that meeting of the fox that so transfixes me when I walk in the woods, perhaps a mere flirtation with danger the walking alone, but in the idea, the sense, the contact with nature I find God and in this finding there really is no danger to speak of because the fox knows I know and as long as I don't push him he lets me be. I really don't think an animal will attack while in its own habitat and free of danger. Of course rabies is always that exception, and I like you, always end up backing off slowly and with trepidation.ReplyDelete
That little red guy certainly made my heart thump, Rubye. I didn't even have identification on me. Later, I realized that I should have, at the very least, stuffed my license in my back pocket. Maybe it's not healthy to be too paranoid, but one never knows what lurks in the dark woods and it's wise to have some kind of protection and ID when out alone.Delete
I agree that most animals are generally harmless in the wild--we see many of them in Maine, and we keep respectable distance from one another. But we've had several rabid animals in the area within the past few years. Still, it doesn't keep me from venturing out--there is, indeed, a divine sense of oneness out there, alone with nature.
When I first saw your picture, I thought oh, she is going to write about my Chestnut Hill Resevoir, but you sly fox, you recreated it's beauty and added an element of danger. I saw it all in my head through your words.ReplyDelete
And you can at least walk/run the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, right Bill?! I've done it plenty of times when I lived by it. Boston got it right, creating the public path and parks around the reservoir. It hasn't threatened the water supply. The reservoir located party in the town I live is much larger, and I think parts of it ought to be accessible to the public--at least some parts, set away from the water, that could be accessed for hiking. This town could use more features like that.Delete
Jayne: Your writing is very rich with heart and content,and of course, immediately captivated me. I felt as if I were walking along that path with you. It is sometimes difficult for parents to let go of a dream they may have for a child, only to eventually allow through love, that child to find their own dream. That, my friend, is pure Grace! I will be back to hear the music shortly. I always enjoy your subjects and your great writing!ReplyDelete
It's a lovely walk, Michael, but unfortunately, a forbidden one! I wonder if I'm at risk for writing bout it. Ha!Delete
I have to admit that I was a bit sad when my daughter gave up softball, because I played the game as well, and I enjoyed practicing with her. But she didn't like the large ball, and I completely got that--I always preferred hardball to soft. The larger ball is clumsy and harder to catch. Anyway, it's an awfully long game (ugh, hours sitting on metal benches watching), and she needed to move on to sports that better suited her, like lacrosse and basketball. Now those games are fun to watch!
Jayne: After catching the girls' basketball game between Texas Tech and Baylor I understand! That was quite a game and in many ways far more down to earth and interesting than pro basketball. Wishing you a nice weekend from West Texas! :)Delete
Isn't college ball the best, Michael? We've got some pretty good college basketball here in the east. Love going to those games. Something about playing for the love it, rather than the money, that really makes the games shine.Delete
You really starting to get good at this. Foxes are stunningly beautiful aren't they.
Duke- Thanks. I'm not sure how I feel about foxes... as beautiful? Hmm... I suppose they are kind of cute and purty--from a distance. Now if it had been a coyote (and there some out there round here) I don't know what I'd have done. I'd like to think I would have done the same thing, but I doubt I'd have maintained as much composure. ;)Delete
My parents tried to put me in softball and I never connected with it either...or any sport. Beautiful writing as usual, and I always love your music choices.ReplyDelete
Elizabeth- I refused to play softball until I was in high school when I finally resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to, at any time soon, play organized baseball with the boys. There wasn't much about softball that I really enjoyed except for being on the field, and playing ball. But I never really got comfortable with the softball, and I think I had a little adolescent chip on my shoulder, not being able to participate with the boys. We had our own neighborhood games, though. That was back when you could run outside and find a pickup game for anything, just about anywhere, at anytime.Delete
Sports aren't for everyone, Elizabeth. You've certainly connected magically with your music. :)
I recently embarked on a loooong Google Images search for a really good -- really striking -- artist's rendering of a scene in the future. As it happened, I didn't use any of the images I found then. But I did come across this post at the Ptak Science Books blog; it's a review, of sorts, of a book published in 1889 called The Last American -- a science-fictiony sort of story whose action takes place in the 29th century. One of the images depicts a bear in pursuit of the human interlopers visiting Wall Street, which reminded me of all the scenes in Twelve Monkeys of wild animals roaming the streets of future Philadelphia. And then here I find a fox claiming possession of a reservoir.ReplyDelete
(We live off a once-rural, now rural-ish road called Buck Lake Road. We used to see deer all the time, even a buck every now and then. But with the encroachment of development they're being compressed into smaller and smaller ranges. Always an eerie treat to see them blinking and twitching their ears and tails from a line of sloooooow-moving traffic.)
A Van Etten fan here, so thanks for the tuneage. I always root for a talented Jersey girl!
Ha! JES, yes that was me--Jayne's Narrow Escape. Although there wasn't any leaping. The Last American looks like a neat little book. Strange, a bit, to look at drawings of the imagined ruins of NY in the 29th century from the perspective of someone writing in the 19th century. Particularly the city without a skyline. I got sucked into the vortex of that site. Lots of interesting stuff--I know I'm going to return, to thanks for including the link.Delete
Like a lot of burbs, I don't think this town thought out its development very well. I mean, they let developments in located right under the highway. Any little bit of land left, it seems, has been developed, unless its protected. The animals don't know where to go. We see them in the streets, even the deer. The fox are particularly bold. We once had one trot right up to our doorstep like he was coming for dinner. At least there's the protected land around the reservoir. The deer, I love to see, though.
Another Jersey kid on her way. ;)
yes, getting off that paved and well worn track is a good thing to do...and you are doing it well m'dear...i really liked this piece, laden with metaphor (intentional/(un)intentional?) and good use of words in describing this place...ReplyDelete
foxes are disgusting things and recently i saw one around here really early one morning...it looked like a giant rat as it scurried across the road looking for the next bin to ravage...eek!
Van Etten...now this is strange...i was listening to an internet radio thingy last week and tuned into a college station and they were playing her...i likee! ;)
Unintentional, Dan. At least at first. ;)Delete
The sort of foxes we see around here look a bit haggard--like maybe they're having trouble finding prey, although the shouldn't look so worn by our house, we've got all the mice!
Van Etten has been traveling the world, so I'd imagine she's getting some decent airtime. I found her not too long ago and immediately added her to my list. I think it will be interesting to follow her progression. :)
i played baseball for years but no matter how much time i spent with my son he threw like a girl but he took to karate like a fish to water. when he reached 2nd dan i decided to return to the dojo with him. compared to him, i punched like a girl!ReplyDelete
Billy- My son tried karate, too. He liked it quite a bit, but just can't fit it in. He has a friend who's a black belt and let me tell you, that kid is in good shape. And ain't nobody going to mess w/him. I think it's really a great practice to take up. Actually, I can see my daughter enjoying it even more than my son!Delete
This is some of the best writing I've seen from you. Straight from the heart. Well done.ReplyDelete
Nessa- Thanks much. Oh what a cold, rain-soaked morning will do for the heart. Glad you enjoyed this piece. :)ReplyDelete
To me, walking is about so, so much more than just walking. It's connection and faith and openness and thought, and the list goes on. I'm a walker, and I'd have gladly walked that paved path too.ReplyDelete
Joanne- Before my husband and I got married, he went to see his barber for a haircut and they ended up talking about, surprise, marriage. The barber had had a long, happy marriage. When my husband asked him what the secret was, the barber said "I go for long walks." I don't think that's an original line, but I sure do see the value of the long walk. Especially the solo walk--when, as you say, we are open to connection, faith, thought. It's a mind and soul cleanser. Long walks--that's the secret. ;)Delete
I was totally engaged with this beautiful piece of writing Jayne. I love the photo you illustrated this post with as well.ReplyDelete
So glad to hear that, Lucy! It was an engaging stroll. It's really refreshing to walk alone sometimes. :)Delete
I love all pieces written about solitary strolls in nature, but I'm quite sure I would not like to be stalked by a fox. My brother's Labrador chased a fox across the snow through some woods in Middle Tennessee when we were teenagers. I was worried for the fox, but my brother sharply informed me that I should instead be concerned about his lab getting rabies from the wild creature. I changed my tune.ReplyDelete
Hillary- Yes, the fox was a bit unnerving. I know several similar fox stories, and they can be dangerous. From distance, though, they do look like sweet little critters. Not cute, but harmless. Ha!Delete
I don't know how you keep doing it, introducing us to the musicians we have missed somehow, but I'm very glad that you do. And then there are the words that take us along paths and down slopes whose messages may be familiar, while the terrain is not. Life embraced with both arms, celebrated here. Thank you. xoReplyDelete
Music has always consumed a large part of my life, Marylinn so it's my pleasure to bring musicians here to this blog and, by extension, to you.ReplyDelete
And what else to do butembrace life with whole body and and soul? Is there any other way?! :D