Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Walk at the Lake in the Spring ...

... when you give yourself to places, 
they give you yourself back;
the more one comes to know them, 
the more one seeds them with 
the invisible crop of memories and associations
that will be waiting for you to come back ...

Rebecca Solnit
           Wanderlust: A History of Walking

I've just come back from a walk at the lake, something I do less frequently now that the arthritis in my toes, the legacy of years of nursing, over-powerwalking and hiking, makes itself known. The breeze was brisk in the bright sunlight as I stepped out of the car and strode the familiar route down the driveway, up the short hill and into the dappled shade of the lane leading to a green-tunnelled pathway down to the water. 

The bushes, shrubs and trees encircling the path were a plethora of tender Monet greens and the tree-lined fields that surrounded them were beginning to fill with dandelions, an advance guard for the buttercups and cow parsley to come. The air smelled like it does every spring - fresh and floral and clean. How many times had we walked these same steps over the years? Hundreds? A thousand?

I continued down the hill toward the water, under the spreading branches of two vast maple trees, their leaves still a little tented, waiting for another few days of full sun, and reminding me of partially-opened parachutes. The pathway curved to the left as it reached the bottom of the hill and morphed into the boardwalk that skirts much of the northern lake shore. Just before emerging into the sunlight, I noticed that the swallows were nesting, again, in bird boxes hung high on the trees for relative quiet and safety.

On I walked, past the canoe dock dancing happily on small sparkily waves, past the turtle log were no turtles warmed their backs today, up the little hill and past the well-kept gardens of the few houses remaining on the park property and, turning right,  I crossed over the small bridge above the now moderately-flowing stream leaving the lake for the sea.  (It had been in full spate the last time I'd walked this way.) I paused, bellied up to the cool stone wall of the bridge, and leaned over a little to watch the sun filtering through the leaves onto the surface of the running water.

As I continued on,  through the two old drystone fence posts, across the water meadows, along the shore, through the patch of woods and then back again, past the Arts Centre and through the botanical gardens resplendent in a blanket of cherry blossom, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, bluebells and lily-of-the-valley, I  suddenly remembered a similar day several years ago, when I had also walked alone, my husband at home in bed, wishing he'd been able to share the morning walk with me - just one more time.

That morning, I'd grabbed my camera from the back seat of the car and, feeling both guilty for being out and free on such a beautiful day and excited at the thought of it, I determined to take pictures of each and every phase of the walk so I could share it with him when I got home. The memory of that sharing is, and was even then, both lovely and bittersweet. 

As I lay with my head beside Derrick's on the pillow, we looked at the pictures and smiled and cried and remembered other spring mornings filled with laughter, teasing, serious discussions and more than one raging argument. As Rebecca Solnit wrote so beautifully, our many walks at the lake had seeded an invisible crop of memories and associations that, even today, wait for me to come back to reclaim them.

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