Monday, July 22, 2013

The Road Goes Ever On

There's always something strangely alluring in a road or trail that winds its way over the horizon, or around a corner.  Where does it lead to?  What scenes of beauty lie just over the next hill? And what if the road never stops? If it just keeps going and going forever, where do you stop or turn around? At the moment of turning around, when the sights become something already seen, it loses its luster.  All that work never to return to that spot again, or to keep going. It's what I find intriguing about the trails I walk.  It's impossible to walk a trail and then turn around because you're tired, or because you've been at it too long, and know that there will be a part of that trail left undiscovered. Sure, I could walk it again, and continue down that path, but why put off that journey until tomorrow?

The Arabian Mountain Trails perplex with all those questions, as the trails are long, steep sometimes, and unless you're riding a bike (which I disagree with), it would take far too many steps to walk the entire thing, and it's difficult to know when to stop.  As for the bikes...I like Noel Paul Stookey's quote on his album Reel to Real, that there's two ways to miss things, either it goes by too fast, or we go by too fast.  The signs on the pathway always talk about controlling your speed on a bike, to pass people only on the left, as if you would be going so fast as to hit them.  Well, you're going too fast. I've seen rabbits, chipmunks, roosters, deer, a really large turtle, lizards, and a couple of snakes I didn't want to bother, all on the trails I've walked.  Which animals would the biker have seen? And the scenery, the sun shining down through the trees with an other-worldly glow, the creeks flowing by with water never to be seen again, do they see these things? Sometimes you have to watch the trees grow, watch the rings form to really appreciate all that's around you.

The joy really is in the journey, as I've quoted before.  It's so much fun to see your goal in sight, and in this case, the place where three trails meet, the spot almost equidistant from the three parking lots. But so much more enjoyable is getting there, through the heat and humidity, the rain (which I did today. I found that the main problem was water getting in my eyes, the wetness didn't bother me), the sun beating down on you.  I found that the best walks I've had were with the sun shining overhead, and me going through so many trails and experiencing the freedom of being absolutely alone and "off the grid," as it were.  For the path is a choice, what road you go down is, in the best of circumstances, entirely up to you.  There are no parents to decide what path to take, no societal norms, no pressure from job or religion or politics... just you and the path, and the sun and the grasshoppers flitting about.

One other thing, while I don't usually sing while I'm walking, I did discover that, at the end of the walk, singing actually helps to regulate breathing, provides tempo and rhythm to your walk. I guess that's why there are so many travelling songs out there.  Pick any James Taylor album, there's bound to be one on there.  Probably the most fitting song for this blog is J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Road Goes Ever On," with the lyrics and video below.

The Road Goes Ever On

The Road goes ever on and on             
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

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