Several times a week, after a long day working on a computer at a desk, I head down to a little patch of wilderness that is nestled between a four-lane highway and a small creek. The path is separated from the road by a a couple hundred feet of marshland and hydro towers. The creek flows though the Town of Dundas into the Hamilton Harbour at the west end of Lake Ontario.
Tonight I head down there with tight shoulders and a mind full of the projects I am juggling for work. But I give myself over to the trail. As I walk, I sink down into my senses.
I can hear the growl of a truck engine and the rumble of car tires rolling on the road. But these human sounds are overlaid by the persistent whir of crickets and the burbling of the water in the creek. Overhead, a branch snaps where a grey squirrel is leaping through the crown of the tree.
My eyes take in the foliage; green leaves are tinged with the reds, yellows and purples of fall. Far ahead on the trail, a chipmunk dashes across the trail. A pair of Mallard Ducks are drifting with the current in the creek. A Great-Blue Heron stands still on the bank across from me, strikes suddenly into the water, and pulls out a silvery fish. As it walks awkwardly along the creek’s bank, the mallards pull out of the current into a still patch of water to wait for it to pass. When the Heron flaps it wings and lifts into the air, the Mallards mark its departure with several loud quacks.
As I move along the trail, the sun drops below the horizon and fills the blue sky with peach-coloured streaks. I pick up my pace; enjoying the feeling of being in my body; arms swinging freely; feet landing firmly on the trail. I can feel the day’s troubles sliding off my shoulders. I find myself breaking into song. I feel like a child reveling in all the wonders that surround me. I reach my turn-around point look down into the creek, to catch a beaver, with it dark brown fur and long, flat tail, swimming quietly upstream. I run up the trail trying to catch another glimpse of its sleek body sliding through the water.
As I head back towards the trail head, the blue sky has dissolved into steel grey. Three Canada Geese fly overhead, silhouetted against the sky, squawking loudly. I spot a small Red Squirrel chewing noisily in the crook of a tree. In my mind, I am cataloguing all of the night’s gifts. By the time, I reach my car, my shoulders are relaxed, my cheeks are red, my mind is quiet, and my heart is full of joy.