My friend graciously pauses for a photo on our walk

My friend graciously pauses for a photo on our walk

Today I took a “real” walk.  You’re wanting a definition of the word “real”, right?  You’re wondering:  aren’t all walks real?  What’s she talking about now?

Yes, yes, if we choose to quibble:  all walks are “real”.  There’s so many different kinds of walks in the winter.  There’s the kind of walk where you mosey around in the backyard, stopping to smell the spruce trees.  There’s the kind of walk where you venture slowly slowly through the snow, breaking through with your big boots, pausing to consider Life between each and every step.  Then there’s the woods walk where you climb up the ravines, and down the ravines, and arrive at some destination after a half hour or so.  Maybe you arrive down at the lake and “oooh” and “ahhhhh” at the beauty of the lake.   There’s even the road walk where you visit a place like the “Eagle Pond” (a name which you’ve created and passed on to others as if it really defines a place, as if others might know what you’re talking about). 

But this definition of a “real” walk is where you walk to get exercise.  You walk distances.  You work up a sweat.  If you’re lucky, you even have a friend who comes with you.  Then you’re so busy gabbing about this and that you sometimes hardly notice the landscape.  You’re instead admiring the landscape of friendship. 

I went on one of those walks today. I wish you all could have come, too.  Think of everything we’d discuss!  Some savvy earth-folks would notice the gray landscape, the gray clouds, the gray snow.  Some might even express awe over the beauty of the tree groves, the slant of snow, the 25 degree warmth.  The rest of us would be discussing Other Matters of Importance, and giving maybe 20% attention to the landscape. 

And most of our attention would be on the slippery nature of the road underfoot.  Winter walking is not necessarily an easy pleasure.  Instead, one has to gauge the ice beneath the boot.  How likely are we to plummet?  Dare we even attempt a swift walk?  And which road provides the best traction?  These are important considerations.

How many of you souls have fallen on the ice?  We older folks seem to have a more challenging experience with the “thrill” of falling.  Young children and even teenagers flop easily on ice, sometimes even laughing, arising cheerfully and carelessly moving on.  As we age, we fall less gracefully.  Down we go, and how do we rise?  Tentatively.  Carefully.  Gauging aches and pains, looking for broken bones.  We’re cautious of icy experiences.  We’re seasoned fallers and we prefer upright.  We’ve learned….

So my friend and I guaged the slippery portions of the road, and tried instead to walk on snow-crusted peaks.  Mind you, these peaks are less than an inch high.  But they provide a bit of stickiness and mitigate the possibility of a tumble.  Last winter we had to cease walking altogether when the roads turned into skating rinks.  This winter, so far, it’s only somewhat challenging.

We chose a road which is not much traveled.  But it is traveled, as a few hardy souls live along its path.  We walked from the church, around an entire country block and then back along the main road until we returned to the church, one hour later.  I cheerfully suggested it was a good 3 mile hike, as my thighs and hips ached noticeably.  My friend, stickler that she is, insisted it was only 2.8 miles.  No matter!  A good sweat had been accomplished and one felt exhilarated after the exercise.  (note, I seem to be using the word “exhilarated” quite frequently to describe the post-outdoors experience.)

A good soaking bath later, a delicious whitefish dinner accompanied by garden squash (yes!  still surviving down in the basement, although getting noticeably more yellow and fragile by the day), potatos and salad, and now nighttime settles in.

In the darkness one might ponder the words of Robert Frost  this long winter’s eve: 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.