July 23, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. – Naturalist John Muir.

     From the earliest days living in a semi-rural New York county not far from Gotham but a great distance from that life, dirt paths crossed my own as my friends and I grew up, lazy hot summers staved from boredom by camping overnight in cool woods and taking many walks on trails in fruit orchards, long-tilled farms and on routes carved by Native Americans.

     To this day, as sleep calls but the body fights entry, a favorite path is remembered and the walk taken again, old shoes or worn tennis sneakers kicking up dust from the dry dirt, June’s wild strawberries mixed in the leftover winter straw.

    Not a sound to be heard from any vehicle, a rabbit jumping past and birds nesting in peach trees. 

     Amazing how walking on a dirt path, so well worn by wagon wheels then motorized ones, does not have you looking toward horizon but at your feet, at the immediate ground.

     Maybe that’s because you are not looking for answers in the horizon – what’s ahead. Instead, you are literally grounded in the moment. 

    In those days, emotions were calmed by a walk on a path. Today the memory of that does the same. Most paths are gone in this neck of the woods, along with the woods. But “progress,” while it can pave a parking lot, cannot change the mind’s video of what once was.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.