I haven’t crossed the state line in six months. That’s a record for me; I haven’t done that in twenty years. I’ve noticed a few things during this experiment.
This weekend we walked through the vivid autumn woods, mist and drizzle wreathing our faces, contrasting with the dry and crunchy fallen leaves beneath our feet. I realized as we hiked that I’ve lost the startle reflex I developed from years of hiking in the mountains out west, home to many animals that could hurt or kill me. But here, I know the snap of a twig doesn’t come from the weight of a bear’s paw, and there is no need to watch the treetops for mountain lions. So at some point I just stopped caring about it.
I can walk here without fear or concern – or, I admit, any sense of thrill from the possibility of a risky wildlife encounter. (My possum encounter last spring notwithstanding.) Five years ago, or even two, I wouldn’t have considered that a happy fact, but now it is just a fact, about which I feel different things. I enjoy the sense of peace as I walk, and now that I’m not listening for bears, moose or mountain lions, I can deeply appreciate the luminescent greens and golds of my home forest, the patterns of the tree trunks and the mushrooms I see sprouting from them. And yet I miss the thrill of a quick heart when I hear a noise in the trees. But I’m content.