By Richard Sachs
You go for a walk, a hike, even a bike ride. A peregrination of any type. You go somewhere you’ve been several times before, perhaps even four or five times in the last couple of years. The path, road, trail always looks the same. Allowing for time of year, there are no changes. The rock that looks like a turtle shell. The tree with the peculiar burl. The path slopes up, then down, then takes a sharp left curve. Always the same as you remember it from last time. The kind of things you can notice on infrequent tours don’t really evolve. The way seems uninteresting, static, unchanging. You might even lose interest in returning to this turf. Boring!
So it would seem counterintuitive that visiting your path more often might make it more interesting. Why would it be more exciting to repeat the same travel again and again?
When I walk North Cove to East Lake, which I do two or three times a year, I spot the familiar landmarks, the expected climbs and down slopes. Sometimes it’s cold and windy, other times sultry and calm. Sometimes the leaves are falling, other days it’s hot and mosquitoes are biting. But the same familiar features are always there. The boulders don’t move. The pine glade still greets me softly underfoot.
But when I walk around the West Cove inlet and beaches, as I do several times most weeks, it is always new and different. One summer day several turtles are sunning on a fallen tree sloping out of the water. A couple of days later, there’s only room for one! Why? In the interval we had heavy rain and the lake must be a few inches deeper. On a late winter day the tips on the bare oak branches are noticeably longer and the maple buds are redder and fatter. A couple of days after some showers there are bright orange mushrooms that weren’t there before. Those lily tendrils are just emerging from the lake one July day, then full heart-shaped greens are floating on the water. Next visit, white or pink flowers are showing off.
When we travel the same terrain frequently, we see it differently. We see the subtle shifts of color, heft, scent, shape that we don’t notice with less frequent encounters. Every trip is new, dramatic, exciting.
Everyone should try it. Pick a trail, a mountain, a road. Go often. Don’t have time? Go down your street for ten or fifteen minutes each way. Physical limitations? Find a way to work your way to the end of your driveway. Down on one side, back on the other. But the trick is to do it so often that the details emerge.
So you see all the wonderful things that change day by day. So, go for a walk. THAT walk. And do it often! You’ll be amazed at what’s new.
Richard Sachs is a retired physician who is a regular contributor to Eastman Living by chronicling what he observes in and around Eastman through the lens of a camera.