We were supposed to take part in “Festival by the Sea” at Holden Beach this weekend, so I took today off work. But Hurricane Sandy, with high winds and torrential rains, had other ideas and the festival was postponed.
So I found myself this morning alone in my house in the woods with no particular place to go and nothing pressing that I had to do.
So, I went walking.
I inherited the love of walking, and I hope also the art, from my daddy. More than a dozen years ago, after reading Thoreau’s “Walking,” I wrote this poem as a tribute to my daddy. It was published in The Allegheny Review in Spring, 2000.
To My Daddy, Who Understood the Art of Walking
Your grandson, Caleb, took me walking today. He left the straw-strewn path and traipsed across the woods. “Dis way,” he said, “dis way,” not yet able to voice this or that or thicket or thatch. I followed him as I had you, yet now I looked down and he up. I reminisced—about Venus Fly Traps that snapped up our offerings when I was small and absorbed your love of nature like oak roots soak up spring rains, about the aroma of honeysuckle hanging heavy in the humid summer air. A black-faced fox squirrel darted across our path. I thought how much you would have loved this child, “Born into the family of the Walker” as Thoreau once said. “Dis way,” Caleb called, “Dis way.” We sauntered for over an hour, sometimes along the narrow sandy path footprinted by deer, raccoon, and bear, then straying to follow the presence of our ancestors through these woods of pines and scrub oaks bearded with Spanish moss. Stopping to sample the sweet grapes growing wildly within reach, I recalled the tart taste of brierberries picked prior to their prime. A sparrow hawk circled high above us. Reaching the river, I remembered standing at its shallow edge brimming with tadpoles and minnows.
Wondering what went wrong with your final fishing trip.
A bullbat dove, screeched, and soared upward into the clear autumn sky.
I hope that in your lifetime you can experience the power of walking — walking the way Thoreau walked, walking the way my daddy walked. Walking that fills you with wonder and awe at the beauty and power of nature.