This morning I took a walk, four miles at dawn to start the day.
The air still wore the wet of last night’s thunderstorm.
The road I took this morning passes a lake, the water’s edge begins a half-a-mile from my door step. Come spring, the lake sequesters itself behind woodland growth, pines and maples and birch, and lush, variegated ground flora. In summer, the heat, humidity, and thunderstorms that tear the sky in two create overgrown canopies of green — moss, lichen, leaves, and needles for endless miles in all directions. When autumn arrives, the woods bit by bit unveil the lake like a slow parting curtain, until after the winter snow and cold arrive, and the spaces born by barren trees show a lake frozen solid.
As I approached the now concealed lake, a sweetness hung heavy and thick. A berry scent saturated the roadway for about a quarter-of-a-mile: sweet like overripe blackberries, though I suspect they were wild blueberries, for this is blueberry country. Wild blueberries grow abundant in New Hampshire, proliferating in self-sustaining mats through seeds and the plants’ prodigious underground rhizome networks.
Today the air was dense and viscous, and the smell of syrup engulfed me.
I stopped, walked next to the road’s edge, then into the ground flora to look for the berries. I couldn’t see them, so I turned around and continued down the road. The smell became stronger, each step a little more soaked in honey and fruit.
Berries? Blueberries? Must be blueberries, I thought, though they remained invisible.
The berry fragrance was thick and ubiquitous. Yet the berries remained hidden, unseen.
Uncertainty and invisibility. The unknown. Imagination’s most fertile ground. Stories coalesced from the ether and flowed on mind’s movie screen.
One story began at the lake’s shore. I saw beyond history’s construction, saw the glaciers that once flowed, and the land carved by ice. I then watched the ice river’s slow-moving withdrawal. Frozen waters receding, until only the lake remained. The winds carried in seeds, a few found their way into the soil, and wild animals foraging brought in more seeds on their fur and in their scat. Trees sprouted on the barren landscape, one by one.
A blueberry seed or two found its way to the water’s edge, and from those first seeds, the land became a network for blueberry mats, and the drenched smell now hitting my nose.
I saw the rhizome networks expand themselves season after season, from the lake’s edge into the woodland floor. I saw the berries blossom, fruit, then die, year after year, until the years could no longer be counted, millennia of life and death, all from the random seeds left by the wind and a few hungry animals.
I saw Indian women walking through the woods, picking berries and leaves, digging for roots, their children helping them fill reed woven baskets, broad faces burnished by sun and work talking about teas and puddings and drying the berries for winter. I imagined a tongue now lost, strained to hear its syllables, imagined its clacking and cadences.
A falcon cried above, and I returned to the present, and the sweetness engulfing me. The present, the woods today. The ether’s cinema showed me a black bear with two cubs, the mother’s muzzle pointing straight up toward the sky, allured by the air-borne smell of jam, her cubs running around her, she led them to the syrup drizzled woodland ground, her light brown nose devouring stems, while her cubs batted at flies and mosquitoes, and romped in the undergrowth.
A doe and her fawns waited, then followed the black bears, gracefully picking around what the bears left.
Slow dissolve, and a fade out. The movies’ textures ended.
I reached the end of the road, turned around, and came home, the fragrant undiscovered sweetness permanently sticking to aeons and glaciers and Indians and bears and deer.