“Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ~Raymond Inmon
I got it into my head this morning to walk the snowy trail along the Irondequoit Creek. My brother-in-law is in town and always game for a hike, even when it’s 19 degrees with a lake wind that makes it “feel like zero.” And I can’t help falling for the seduction of the winter sun, drawing a false connection between its bright morning light and the heat it would seem to be—but is not—emitting.
After some easy hiking and three successive bridges, the trail is no longer recognizable as such. It deposits you on the side of a muddy cliff, icy water below. The root structure of some evergreens tempted us to go on. There are two possibilities: the high way, clinging to roots and a semblance of footing among downed trees, and the low way, which offers a two-inch strip of bank that could be mud, ice, or dead leaves, likely some unattractive combination. We took the high way.
My brother-in-law slipped at the most dangerous point, but had a good handle on a durable pine root. For a second, though, he pulled a Cliffhanger. It was awesome, though I felt secretly guilty for thinking so while he was at risk. A great athlete and woodsman, he handled it easily, pointing out later, “I don’t think my muscles were bulging like Stallone’s.” Earlier we’d debated turning back. I felt badly for putting him in that position. But it was invigorating to be out deep in the woods when innocuous walk became perilous adventure, if not exactly for me.
By chance, I had enjoyed two breakfasts prior to going out. Per my habit of over-identifying with “Lord of the Rings,” I felt a sense of purpose surge within. While it was silly and indulgent, it also put me in the right frame of mind to enjoy the payoffs the hike would later afford: a male and female mallard drifting together on the current; a father and son fishing quietly; the sudden appearance of a waterfall that looked so much like glass, I could not say for sure it wasn’t; the discovery of a poplar that had split into two equally massive trees, the common trunk of which was twelve or fourteen feet around; and finally the tired, satisfied hamstring muscles climbing the last hill home.
The hike enabled me to receive the gift of a winter day that, if asked, I would’ve said I could do without. My default setting is vague depression/irritability, especially in New York’s long winter. I need to be jolted from it. Walking never fails to supply the jolt, even quieter walks with no hints of danger.
Do you walk? Where? What do you experience? What do the angels whisper to you?