"wandering on foot can lead to the wandering of imagination and to an understanding that is creation itself, the activity that makes introspection an outdoor pursuit. [...] Introspection is often portrayed as an indoor, solitary thing, the monk in his cell, the writer at her desk. Woolf disagrees."
--Rebecca Solnit, "Woolf's Darkness"
This past weekend, I went hiking in Vermont. I had had it in my head to "go to Vermont" all autumn. I had wanted to go in October, but that was not to be. I also had it in my head to see the stars, but that was also not to be. I miss the night sky as the night sky really is; wet with limpid, liquid stars.
But I was glad that I went to the mountains in November.
The mountains were covered with dead trees. The color of dead trees is a strange translucent brown; it's eerie and enchanting. The evergreens at the peaks are the only signs of life.
But somewhere, underneath that naked cover of life-less trees clamber bears, moose, followed by leaping deer and scurrying squirrels. There is a lot of dormant life.
I clamber up rocks covered in giant waves of dead leaves, and tramp through woods disturbed only by the moaning of the wind and the creaking of the shivering branches in the cold breeze.
I sit on a rock covered with bright green moss, and stare across the woods-covered mountains. And I can think. I can think with a clarity and a precision that gets lost in the rush of the city. I felt my thoughts churn out and order themselves systematically. Fresh and bright, just like the sky around me.
I wandered through the birch trees, with their bark peeling off, revealing the tender pink skin underneath. In the middle of the birch trees it was absolutely silent. There was no wind, there was no noise at all. I closed my eyes, and quieted my thoughts.
I felt like I could spend forever in the sweet silence of the mountain birches.
But it was no longer time for rest, but time to keep walking.