We went for a long walk on Friday afternoon — Dog#2 and I — in Mud-n-Flood Park. We started on a designated trail but soon struck out across an open field, which in summer is planted in corn and which, now, is dotted with corn stubble.
You can do that kind of thing in the winter — strike out across an open field — because in winter there are open fields. In the summer, I would not walk over the field and disturb the corn trying to grow there.
Winter, to me, is freedom and joy; summer is dreariness and isolation. I'm isolated in summer, but not from people — au contraire, there are too many of those odious creatures out and about. I'm isolated from the woods, which are filled with poison ivy and mosquitoes; from the trails, which are jammed with people and unleashed dogs; from the open fields, which are full of crops; from the dunes, which are prohibited to dogs during the swimming season. I'm housebound by the mosquitoes. I'm lonely because I can't go visit my friends — the woods, the trails, the fields, the dunes, the railroad tracks.
We crossed the open field, Dog#2 and I, and when we came to the railroad tracks, we walked parallel to them for a while. In that area the railroad grade is very high and steep. We walked until I found a place that was neither too steep nor too overgrown to climb. Then we climbed, struggling and slipping and gasping, and laughing, too — yes, I saw laughter in my dog's eyes — until we reached the summit. On the other side of the double tracks were fields and ravines and huge old trees that I had never seen though I've lived in this area for sixteen years.
I wanted to walk along the tracks and see the landscape from this unfamiliar point of view. I wanted to walk at least to where the tracks cross high over the river. It was a bit dangerous, because if a train came we'd have to either huddle just off the tracks or scramble down the steep, thorny sides of the grade. But a train coming from either direction would give me plenty of notice by its whistles at the crossings, and even if somehow I missed those, then by sight.
We reached the river viaduct without meeting a train. The grade at the river was almost vertical, rough and heavily overgrown with thorny things, so we couldn't climb down there and pick up the trail back. We turned around and retraced our steps along the tracks until I found a relatively open space down the grade where I could actually see the trail winding through the woods — only about 100 feet of snow and ice and thorns and fallen trees to cross through.
It was a joyous, delightful afternoon, and one I couldn't have experienced in the summer.