On Friday January 20th, I made my return journey to my little world. The day before was quite beautiful and slightly warm, so naturally I decided to delay my stroll until today. Too easy would have been to traverse in lovely sunlight. Today was what I, and Winnie the Pooh, would call a “blindery blustery day.” In other words it was a rather miserable. Dark clouds and the promise of rain were evident. At 1pm with a peak temperature of 37 degrees I headed out. By the time I reached the White Clay Creek path, there was a light but relentless shower.
As soon as I entered the forest I could hear the river, unlike the week before; which meant it was flooding. Not a creature in sight. If there were birds singing, I could not hear them over the river and the rain pelting against my hood like the canopy leaves in the rainforest. Again I walked deliberately, trying to listen for any sound. My feet against the gravel. The rain hitting each leaf high up in the trees. The roar of the river beyond my sight. The sounds blended together and were one. Each breath I took sounded like thunder compared to the echos of the forest. Then I heard it. An unnatural screech that cut through the silence and made me flinch. As i listened for it again every inch of my body was still except for my heart pumping faster than a car engine. Again an echoing shrill pierced the air. Had I not heard this same screech years ago in my home of Wilmington Delaware, I would have been convinced that it was indeed a monstrous beast, which is exactly what I thought then. It turned out then that it was nothing but a fox. The only abnormal difference was that years prior, it howled in the middle of the night, normal compared to early afternoon, as most foxes are nocturnal.
Because I detest the sound the fox makes, I decided to put my headphones on to drown out the noise. I also wanted to see how the music affected my perception on the landscape itself, as opposed to my previous trip with silence. First I played “Rock with you” by Michael Jackson as I made my way off the asphalt road onto the dirt path for the river. Although I loved the song that was playing, I have to say that it took me right out of the environment. I realized after about five minutes that my walking pace had become unhurried and leisure. I hardly noticed anything about the landscape around me. It was like looking at an abstract that I did not understand, so i switched music. The second song I played as I went down a path that was much less traversed than the one I took the week prior. This path, compared to the other, was like the congo with untamed shrubs and tree branches lying in the way of the “path.” The song I played was “Swell” by Laake. No singing, just a fiercely paced piano being played. This whimsical yet almost ominous tune actually seemed to enhance the environment around me. The dark sky and rain added to the relatively dark tone of the piano. I felt my pace quicken, but not to the point of ignorance of the scenery. I was exploring this wet dark jungle, as I dodged thorn bushes and fallen trees. As the speed of the song increased so did my pace, so at this point I was practically running. I could have been running after something or away from something else, only the trees and river would know for sure, as it was just them and I in the middle of this thicket.
When the song stopped so did I. I breathed in deeply and looked around 360 degrees. It was still raining hard on me. I looked around at the perfect blend of saturated brown trees. They meshed so well it was hard to distinguish one tree from the other. I exhaled. Along the bank of the river was a tree that had fallen. It fell parallel to the river and precisely into the “V” shape of another tree’s trunk. How chance. I took off my rain jacket, letting the water hit my hair and face. It was cold but refreshing. It made me think of the essay written by Linda Hogan, “What holds the water, what holds the light.” There is the same amount of water on earth than there ever has been. No more, no less. The water that is now raining down upon me has a story, like all other water. It could have made it all the way from the Arctic Ocean, or even just from the river ten feet away. Once it hits the ground here in White Clay, it’s already on its journey to somewhere else entirely.