Westside walker

Sat, 03/05/2022 - 3:00am

Walking Block Island roads and trails is more interesting than many people think. Most animals walk with great purpose: searching for food, a cool spot from the heat, a desire to mate, or not be eaten by a predator. For me, walking is more spiritual, mindful, healthy, and a decent exercise. It helps me connect to my sense of place. I wave “hello” to every car or truck. If they pull over a bit into the other lane, I thank them with a nod as they speed by me. I’m being friendly. We live in a small community, we tend to help others, and we need support. It feels good to smile and say “hey” to people you know and
don’t know. I suspect they might feel a bit better too.
In spring, I remember that life goes on. I put aside my thoughts about all the junk I have in my garage. Spring is about renewal of love for this small island in the ocean. The ancients built stone monoliths to our rebirth in the spring. Some people dance around May poles. We have April Fools’ Day and the Easter Parade. On Block Island we wonder if it is time to plant our gardens or make ferry reservations. What a joy to see the by the roadside, budding daffodils someone planted many years ago. Conversely, I see car-crushed snakes who only wanted the warmth of the road and a squashed turtle only following
one of nature's prerogatives. Wiggly worms lay all over after a heavy rain saturated their water-logged homes. The same rain that will replenish our aquifer and grow our food. Every walk is a reminder that life, in some way, renews and adapts.
In the summer, as the heat rises and the roadside trash, the cups, the bottles, the candy wrappers, crushed beer cans thrown out car windows, and the occasional dead rat with crows picking become noticeable. The traffic increases, cars, trucks, bicycles, mopeds, and a strange number of odd-looking devices like motorized skateboards, or three-wheeled vehicles with whip antennas speed by. The irony is the speeders miss much of what they came here to see. On hot days I sweat. It is a good, exercise sweat. I’m not looking to mate, escape from predators, or search for food, although blackberries or apples are worth a munch. Finding “stuff” by the side of the road is fun: a shiny new socket, a broken sledge hammer, a penny, and lots of micro-trash (which ends up in the dump). I have found many feathers. For me, it is like finding a lucky charm. I once found a small silver crucifix. I have it to this day. Every walk is a
treasure hunt.
In the fall, the bright green softens and leaves begin to turn red and brown before the wind drives them from the trees and bushes. As traffic and roadside trash decrease, the island color changes and earth colors begin to appear, as do hidden island places. Things that you don’t notice in the summer like flocking birds in the sky or sitting evenly spaced on the wire, migrating birds stopping for a rest and some berries, and the school bus is back on the road. Every walk is a learning experience if you want it to be.

In the winter, the other Block Island emerges, its leafy camouflage blown away after a late fall storm. I begin to see the land and our history. The different types of stone walls, an antique house hidden by summer’s tangle of vines and brush or, where the part of the original West Side Road went before paving. You feel the dirt and sand and rock of our island under foot. You see the results of the glaciers; the terminal moraines, the drumlins, the vernal ponds, the kettle ponds (small and some fishable), and the glacial water outwash full of small stones, rounded and tumbled into submission after their journey from some unknown mountain in Canada. I see the rolling hills worn soft by 10,000 years of wind and rain. A walker also has time to stop to look at our trees and shrubs, but without their summery leaf and flower blooms. The walker sees the structure of the trees. Where each branch travels to find the sun. Where the tree emerges from the ground and begins its journey to the sky. What a wonderful growth story to see. Trees seem to be like complex people that I know as I walk. Of course, I say hello to my favorites. What also strikes me is the sound of the wind. Walk by a stand of bamboo to hear the clicking sound of their maturing shoots or an open unplowed field where there is a sea of grass waving in the breeze. The wind pushes you and pulls at you. Places where there is no wind, I am attracted to the silence as a kind of refuge. Every walk brings new emotions and knowledge.
Walking is about the flora and fauna and people and history and health. Walking on our island helps you understand who you are and why you are here. Should we care about preserving these places and things or is it just another day in paradise?