David Russell Mosley
1 October 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
When I was going my PhD in Nottingham, I had a pretty regular routine. I would get to the university at about 7:30 AM and work until about noon. After lunch, I would typically grab my pipe, possibly a book or journal, and head out to the lake just off of campus (whether or not it is “on campus” is up for debate, but it is not owned by the university). The walk around the lake was about a mile and a half. I would usually walk around the lake, sit for about fifteen-thirty minutes at my favorite bench and then go back to work. These walks were an essential part of my scholarly process. They allowed me time to relax, to move, to get oxygen to my brain, and to think. Usually, I would talk out loud to myself. What my fellow walkers thought, I’m sure I don’t know.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t realize just how important these walks were for me until I didn’t have them any more. I knew I missed those walks, but I didn’t realize that they were necessary. So today, after doing some work at the local bakery, I decided to go for a walk at a nearby park. It was wonderful. Unlike the walk around the lake at Nottingham, there are more “wild” aspects of the walks at this park. They are not totally wild, the paths are all man-made. I expect the wood itself was more or less man-made. And that’s something I loved about it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to find my way into a truly ancient forest, but there’s something nice about the combination of man and nature (since we are natural, after all) in this wood.
I trudged along, found the wildest part of the path and headed out, into the rain and mud.I think I smiled the whole time I was out there. In truth, I intended the walk to be short. Maybe twenty minutes. Just enough time to get what felt like a decent walk, about a mile or so, and head out. Well, when I had my first opportunity to head back to the main part of the park and make my way back to the car, I decided to head back into the wood. I thought I could just add a little bit to my walk. Thirty minutes later I was a bit lost, headed up hill, in the wrong direction, sweating rather profusely, and loving every minute of it. I stopped every now and then to say hello and bless the local wildlife: several chipmunks, a heron, various small birds, and one something, possibly a rabbit, but I really can’t be sure. Anything else that might have been hiding in there was certain to stay hidden as stomped and lumbered along.In several places there were fences. I’m not sure why the fences were there as there was usually a gate through which I would go to continue on the path. Whenever I see fences like this, I usually assume that they are not meant to keep me out, but to keep something else in. In several places trees and possibly more had knocked the fences down, almost all the way to ground. Whatever was being kept out, it’s almost certainly loose at this point.
After making a wrong a turn and re-covering some old ground, I finally made my way out. I loved this walk and hope to do shorter versions of it and intentionally do the long version of it again throughout Autumn (I’m not sure if the park closes over the winter). I wish I made the decision to visit the park sooner, but I’m glad I did it today. I need to be out in nature, to be with trees and rocks and mushrooms. I need it. It feeds my soul. And now I see new things when I go out into nature. I can think about the fact that the various fungi might be creating networks of communication throughout the wood, that the trees themselves are supporting one another. I needed this walk and I’m so glad I took it.