After this horrifying week in the city, I needed to get away and get some perspective. So this morning I bought a roast beef sandwich, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain (and a P.G. Wodehouse book, in case I needed to cut the Merton), and took the Metro-North up the Hudson line to do a day hike on the Appalachian Trail.
I did this same hike in June, when the weather was hot, buggy, and sticky. Today was glorious early-fall weather; cool and dry, and the trees are just barely starting to turn. One of the things I like about hiking is that, unlike many workday pursuits, there’s no illusion of control. The hill is just there, and it doesn’t care if you climb it in ten manly minutes or fifty wimpy ones. It doesn’t care if you climb it at all, in fact, and there’s not even the presence of not caring; the hill just is. Usually, I like that because it’s a good antidote to a “type A” New York lifestyle. Today, it was a good antidote to the horrible human calamity that’s been the first thing on everyone’s mind since 9AM on Tuesday morning.
Every time I do this hike there`s something to make my jaw drop. Last time, it was a green bottle fly sitting on a rock at the top of Anthony’s Nose, above the Bear Mountain bridge. The sun caught it in a way that made it brilliantly, vibrantly green, as if this fly was a chunk of pure additive color.
Anyhow, this time it was a rushing sound like surf that I noticed in a field of cattails on the way to Manitou train station. The rushing sound got louder; I looked over and realized that it was a flight of thousands of tiny birds (sparrows?) wheeling and diving for insects. It sounded like a big nylon kite does on a windy day at the beach, except smoother.