The Road Not Noticed

Last week I mentioned that one of the delightful digressions in Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras is Hubie’s reflection on the superior merits of walking compared to driving. Some of my favorite passages in Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire are his rants about tourists who never get out of their vehicles when they visit a national park, and somehow think they have seen it that way. I thought about all this on a recent trip to cold wet rainy Maine, when I discovered a road I’d never noticed before. My sister, who lives there, had never noticed it either. We drove past it.

Sunday, after hours and hours of steady rain, I accepted that I couldn’t go running and did a lot of intense sun salutations instead. And then the sun came out. I’m not taking credit, and it didn’t stay out long, but at least the rain stopped. Since I wear barefoot shoes, I don’t run on pavement, but on grass and dirt, and my usual Maine-visit running route was swamped. So I took off down the verge of Route 1, traffic and all, and immediately spotted a road I’d never noticed before. Left turn into new territory.

It was beautiful, a hilly route through green deep woods, with a few houses set back among the trees. I ran in the narrow strip of dirt between the pavement and the vegetation, and crossed a little bridge over a gleaming silvery wetland that turned into a flowing stream. The road then led to an intersection with a spectacular view of a farm with open fields, well-kept old buildings painted the classic farm red, and a flock of freshly shorn sheep, a dozen white and one black. Their wet skins glistened in the soft light.

Driving, I don’t explore. I go somewhere. Running, I found a place of great beauty I doubt I could have enjoyed so much from the window of a car even if I were inclined toward idle Sunday drives. The sensory experience came from immersion in the outdoors as well as the unexpected. Frogs were bellowing and chirping, calling back and forth with songs as varied as those of the birds, making the Maine woods sound like a jungle.

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