By Kat Mayerovitch
I haven’t hiked a single mountain this year.
In the early COVID days, especially, it seemed reckless to travel anywhere outside of the range to which my own feet could take me, so I took the car only to the grocery store or the farm stand and back home again. And outside of that, I walked.
There are just a few routes I can walk from home. Down the path and under the bridge to the school, with its shuttered-for-now playground. Up the hill and back again. Across the street to our local trail. Over the tracks and down to the park. Not much variety, measured in normal years. But I’m a slow walker with two bad knees and a deteriorating hip; that’s still hours of adventure for me, all things told.
It’s also a lot of repetition. So this was the year I noticed when the cedar waxwings visited our crabapple tree for two weeks and then left again. The year I watched the river rise and fall. The year I saw one straggling branch of raspberries sprout from a concrete retaining wall, and marveled at how food can grow almost anywhere.
I took so many photographs of clouds.
And this was the year I met so many others walking, too. I met dogs and learned their names. People looking for mushrooms, looking for songbirds, looking for something, anything to do with their small and restless children. People writing encouraging messages in sidewalk chalk. Relishing or avoiding mud puddles.
We talked about the weather when we met. We pointed to the clouds.
This isn’t a Walden story. I’m deeply grateful to live in community with others, even when it’s a community waved at from a safe and dutiful distance. But this is the year I let myself learn to love my home more narrowly, and more deeply. For his zucchini patch. For her new pet rabbit. For the hand-painted sign on their fence. For the here in my where.
And I learned it slowly, as is often the case with love stories. Because this is the year I learned it step by step.
Kat Mayerovitch writes, bakes, and gardens in Wilder, Vermont.