Not sure if this fits into the weekly category, but since life is a quest for something or the other, I decided to post this old letter from 2009 with a few pictures I took at that time…
The leaf dropped out of the tree and was caught by the gentle Autumn breeze as it fell from the sky. I swung my arm lazily as I ran by, as the leaf drifted across the trail. Amazingly I made contact and the leaf ended up in my hand. Alright!, I said to myself. At least that is what I thought I was doing. But these days I am sometimes not sure if I am speaking to myself, or if I have said something out aloud without realizing it. But it did not matter in this instance since I was all by myself. I could behave like an happy two year old without having to worry about somebody looking at me in a strange way because I was not “acting my age”.
Perhaps, this is one reason I enjoy being out there on the trail. I can scream out loud with a sense of wonder every time the heavy locomotives of the freight trains power past me. I can even sing loudly to myself with only the flowers, the birds, and the occasional curious squirrel hanging around to hear the cacophony. I can drop the burden of “expected” behavior and be myself. I can take unplanned diversions from the trails into the unmarked woods if I want. I can follow the butterfly or dragonfly as it flitters from flower to flower, hoping it settles down long enough at one location without flying away at my approach, so that I can take its picture. (It does require a lot of patience!) It is truly a healing process to get away from “civilization”. Maybe I have a stupid smile on my face when I am out in the woods, and this why the few people I encounter seem to respond to me with a pleasant Good Morning. Maybe they are all as crazy as I am.
The heat of summer is behind us and the cooler days of Autumn have arrived. There are the cool and crisp Fall mornings – with the clear and bright blue skies, with the occasional fluffy wisps of clouds floating by – looking like light cotton balls that are being gently pulled apart by some unseen hand in the sky. There are the cold and gloomy mornings, when the clammy feeling penetrates your jacket, and even your skin, when the heavens are filled with dark ominous clouds that block the sun and scurry across the sky, as if in a hurry, eager to get somewhere.
The leaves are just beginning drop from the trees and there are already a few spots of reds and yellows in our neighborhood and on the trail. The Frittilary that I saw in large numbers at the beginning of summer in Black Hill park have long since gone, and so have the somewhat rarer Monarchs. There is still the occasional Tiger Swallowtail to be seen, but other than a few Skippers, this really seems to be the season for the Sulphurs.
The unidentified dragonflies and damselflies are still around in smaller numbers, occasionally flying around in pairs as if they were indulging in some sort of mating ritual (perhaps they are!), but they will also disappear as surely as the butterflies and the leaves on the trees.
The various types of ducks that I used to observe at Black Hill have long since gone, and I am looking forward to Spring when I hope to see the somewhat rarer migratory species once again. The Canada Geese that are supposed to be migratory never left, and they dominate the lake and the river these days. The cardinals are still around, but the robin will only return in spring. My good friends, the blue heron, can very frequently be seen in certain sections of the canal fishing. (Yesterday I saw a whole bunch of cormorants perched on some rocks in the middle of the Potomac near Harpers Ferry. I was even fortunate to capture the picture of a raptor, perhaps it was an eagle or a osprey, diving into the waters of the Potomac to come up with a fish that it had caught!)
The last flowers of summer can still be seen in the woods of Black Hill and along the towpath – the purple chicory, some white and purple fleabane, some asters, a few goldenrods, and some others that I still cannot identify. I wish I had more time!
I cannot wait to experience the vast expanses of the fields of Virginia bluebell on the towpath in Spring.
And thus the days, the seasons, and the years go by, and one finds that one has survived to reach the age of 50! (Teresa had arranged a great surprise Birthday party! Thanks to John from arranging his trip from Bangalore so that he could spend the evening with us.) The times seem to rush by in a hurry, and before I knew it, over 20 years of marriage have gone by and the kids have all grown up. In just a few years the next generation will be ready to take over the reins from us, and eventually we will also be consigned to the dust. The cycle of life will continue. I have to remind myself constantly that we need to do our best while we are here, and that we also need to make the best of what we have without being greedy. In tough times I have to try to remember that I am one of the fortunate ones, and that the present will eventually become the past. In the short time that we have here on Planet Earth, perhaps we can try to leave our mark by doing something positive for others, and we can also try to leave the world in a better shape than we found it. Maybe, just maybe, this could be The Meaning of Human Life.
Life goes on. Keep on Truckin…
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