Beginnings sometimes challenge – and getting going seems easier with routine. A daily walk isn’t such a sure and efficient raiser of spirits as a run, but it’s close. Our daily walk, regardless of weather, is a routine guided by my exercise-dependable husband.
But wee scholar days disrupt the schedule, and I must discipline myself. Being in town leads to temptation, the lure of a giant morning gory muffin or maybe a few errands. Morning time is precious. It’s best if I just go home and go for a walk.
The woods walk begins on public land nearby, along an old logging road that turns to a path of duff – layers of fir needles and broken cones, leaf and branch litter, all soft underfoot. The route is not long, an up-hill, down-dale sort of forest amble, the circuit takes less than an hour.
Sometimes we see horseshoe prints or bike tire tracks, get passed by a runner coming or going, greet dog walkers. Neighborhood users of the trail care for it – after storms, downed trees get cut apart to clear the way. A green-all-winter-understory of ferns, salal, and rhododendron grows beneath fir, cedar, and hemlock. A couple of fallen logs are fashioned into rough-hewn benches. This time of year bright new moss cloaks stumps and nurse logs.
March is too early for the full-on dawn chorus, but the overture begins now – individual birds test solo songs. When the music rings out from a winter wren, which I rarely can see, I have to resist the notion that a giant tree sings. I stop in the woods to try and find the source of such beauty. Brown, tiny, and rounded – the wren has a voice out of proportion to size. To hear this hearty melody coming from such a tiny body is joyful.
Once walking the path with a friend – little and winter wren-like herself, an artist who paints in the woods, a wearer of green and brown – we got close to a winter wren perched on a branch. One of us saw it and signaled the other. But it was October and no song to be heard.
Soon more than one will sing, winter wren songlines will stretch through the woods, interrupting and echoing duets of competition.
The path loops back to the logging trail through a wet spot, catkins signal alders above. Here forest edge plants thrive. Salmonberry and ribes blossoms are ready to welcome hummingbirds and bees. Elderberries begin with leaves.
Back at the house, in those moments at the end of a run or a walk when ideas often occur, I stop at the front steps. In a fitting finale, two utterly silent eagles circle overhead, and from offstage, in the nearby woods, I hear a winter wren – four cycles of his aria – hidden but glorious.