For quite some time now, my husband Vince and I have been working to restore a path my dad cut through the woods nearly 30 years ago. We owe our pace — a pocket full of nails, a board or two, a few random cuts of low hanging branches — to our lack of both time and ability.
In our daily lives, we work with words, not wood. So, our skillset isn’t the same as the man who labored all summer to build the nine bridges that have, so far, lasted three decades longer than he did.
In our quest to restore the path, we have battled both weather and wildlife. We leave perfectly groomed paths and return to find them buried under snow or washed away by the spring melt. Still, we tramp on.
Meanwhile, to mark the path for visitors and, sometimes, ourselves, Vince has been tying bright orange cloth strips to trees, a project that has opened him to some banter from our friends and, occasionally, from me.
“You can’t get lost when you’re walking along a river,” I have said with wifely arrogance. “The river will always lead you home.”
And then I had to cop to a solo walk on a lovely winter day when, deep in thought, I followed a deer trail off our rough-hewn path, looked up and said, “Huh!” and then circled back until a familiar orange flag told me I was back on track. I wasn’t lost, though. Never that. Just mometarily distracted.
Lately, I have noticed another group chiming in to poke a little fun at the marking of a path that runs along a river, the little fellows that live there. A few weeks ago, I spotted one of the trees Vince had marked lying in the river, hacked down by the obvious teeth of our resident and, yes, busy beavers.
A little ways down, I noticed more teeth marks on another tree marked by an orange flag.
“I think your orange markers offended the beavers,” I said to Vince, a concept I found both fascinating and hilarious.
I had visions of those wood chucks chuckling behind their big, bucked teeth and merrily hacking away at Vince’s carefully marked trees, hoping to divert us hapless humans away from their playground. How much wood can a wood chuck chuck when a wood chuck chuckles? I guess we’ll see.
It’s a harmless dance we do, those of us who share the woods. We mark and remark our territory, cede and reclaim our ground and teach our children that the river will always lead them home.