Since I wrote about my addiction on this page a few weeks ago — a daily hike in the national forest, generally starting before sunrise — a number of kindly people have said, “Aren’t you bored, doing the same thing every morning?”
It’s true that I was quite shocked last summer to realize that, although I have hiked most of the obvious trails in this area at one time or another, I must have taken the nearest one, which starts at the Angeles Crest fire station, several hundred times. I’m in a rut after all, I thought.
It’s different every day, however: total silence one day, the urgent cries of birds the next, the moon lighting the first part of the hike one morning, swirling mist another.
Each segment has its own characteristics, like the sudden drop in temperature in a small gully, or rounding a corner and coming from cool shade into warm sunshine, colors constantly changing. And then, later in the season, the surprise of seeing bushes that seemed bare yesterday now in full bloom; or the first butterfly, immediately followed by the second, then a third.
Like all frontiers, interest is quickened by the tension between the two sides, in this case, night and day, and with it, satisfying little revelations. Since I was first forced to read Homer, for example, and before I began to get the hang of it, I was never able to visualize the phrase he relished — “dawn with her rosy red fingers” — until, still in twilight down here on Earth, I can look up and see the rosy-fingered vapor trails of flights heading out over the Pacific.
Some days, however, I find I see more inwardly than outwardly. I walk at a contemplative speed, halfway between two and three miles an hour, and slip quickly into a reverie, thoughts moving in and out, without much of a pattern, but surprisingly effective in widening perspectives normally constrained by everyday routine.
Time, too, loses its rigidity. Soon after I started using the fire station road, I found that from where it levels off, it takes me eight minutes to reach the turnaround point. In prehistoric times when I first started building my jazz and big band collection, records were on disks that ran a little more than three minutes, with the exception of a precious few that ran to four. One of these was the cherished Frank Sinatra recording of “Old Man River” on one side and “Stormy Weather” on the other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the first notes of “Here we all work ‘long the Mississippi” as I top that last rise, moving into “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky” (on cloudy days) and come to the closing notes almost precisely at my destination. It’s corny, I know, but a lovable world of difference between that and checking a watch.
REG GREEN (www.nicholasgreen.org) lives in La Cañada.