From the time I was small I loved walking. This is no accident, because some of my earliest memories are of walking with my father. At one time — World War II era 1940’s — we lived in a small West Virginia village, and were without a car. We walked to the grocer, barbershop, bus stop, and school. One of our parents might be with us on these trips, but it was also quite safe to walk around town alone. On some the best walks my father would take us into the surrounding hills and woods. These walks always felt long to me. We would walk and talk. And the best part of it was that we were with him. We enjoyed each other. He knew the woods, and exactly which path to take.
This habit — this love for walking into the woods — or anywhere for that matter, stayed with me into my teen years. In the summer or on Saturdays and Sundays, I’d sometimes go into the woods near our home, and walk around the hill, along the edge of some cliffs, and then further into the woods. If I were going to the nearby city, and didn’t have a car available, I never hesitated to walk. Also through my early teens I had a morning paper route, so had to get up before daylight in the winter months, and and sometimes walk to deliver my papers along a hilly, dirt country road. I remember one particular morning when I was about fourteen. The morning was pitch dark and I had trouble seeing the road in front of me. I’d been over this road many times before, so knew the way in spite of the darkness.
Many years later, in my late forties, I went through a personal crisis. It was hard on me, and I felt at wits end at times. I visited my father, who lived over two hundred miles away. He asked me to join him on a walk. We went through the fields, and once again walked and talked. What I remember most is the encouragement he gave me. I do miss those walks.
I am old now, but I still walk when I can. Now I’m almost always alone. However I’m an amateur photographer, so my camera goes with me. Landscapes are my favorite subjects to photograph. One day it suddenly dawned on me just how many of my pictures feature a pathway of some sort, as the focal point.
It seems that walking is always a part of me, even my dream life. One recurring dream is being on a pathway that never gets shorter. I walk and walk, but never reach the destination. These are not the most pleasant dreams, and I’m happy to wake up. However there’s another. In this one I walk to a destination high atop a mountain. It seems to be the place of ultimate destination. The strange part of it is this: I see myself at the peak, which seems to be place of perfect peace and beauty. It gives me great satisfaction to have reached it. I know its where I belong, and I know a Presence is there with me. But — as yet I’ve never seen the other side. I haven’t had this dream often, but with longing, want to revisit it. I can’t help wondering about that view on the other side.
One of the places I do a lot of my walking is the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, a few miles from home. On the following page are a few photos of the trails I explored in the fall of 2014: Autumn Trails at Merry Lea Environmental Center.