BY RENU MEHTA
TORONTO, ON: March 27, 2020: I went for a walk in the woods today. Just a 5 minute walk from our home, there is a path that leads to a narrow wooded trail with trees all around. One moment you are in a concrete jungle and the next moment one is transported into the forest. This track begins with a pathway through a narrow lane with bushes, shrubbery and vegetation all around with a mere puddle of rainwater I would say that has gathered together, yet it pleases the eye. As I venture forth the beaten path, a bridge looms up with a stream of water flowing below it. The brook makes babbling sounds, as streams generally do and I stop and listen to the sounds amidst the silence. I can’t believe that there is habitation so close by as I meander along those narrow paths, and the splendour of this fragment of nature strikes me and I think this beaten path must be glorious in the summer and fall as a brilliance of colours spiral up.
Fortunately, my phone battery dies as I pass the bridge, so I saunter along with no distractions other than my thoughts and this magnificent vegetation to keep me company. I think to myself, it’s good that my spouse declined to accompany me so I can have these moments to myself.
The gentle breeze caresses my face as I take each step to explore this path, taking me deeper into the recesses of this foliage. I walked fast for a while, but then decide to slow down – what is the rush – I have all the time in the world to watch out for the chirping bird that is surely up on a tree nearby. A few people walk by, some of them wearing masks, some not. Not too many though. There is one couple, a woman with her child, and may be three or four people walking among this secluded space. I don’t wear a mask either, letting the sun’s rays and gentle breeze waft.
A little further on, a man on a bike has stopped, with his hands pointed upwards holding something black in his hands. From a distance, at first, I thought he was holding a bird and it looks like he is about to release it into the open sky. This thought brings fascination and joy. . What a great thing to do, liberating the caged birds, birds who are meant to fly and be free! If there is one thing I hate, it’s seeing birds in a cage. I think it is the cruelest thing that mankind can do to birds. If I had my way, I would release all the birds and let them fly freely into the universe. It makes my heart wrench, my blood boil to see birds captured. This and a hundred other thoughts race through my mind.
As I get closer, I am disappointed. The man who has now got off from his bike is holding his phone up, perhaps to take a selfie. I pass him and our eyes lock. He looks almost sheepish, I feel, as if silently apologizing for focusing on his phone rather than enjoying the sunshine enhancing the azure blue sky. It flickers through my mind that somewhere we have lost our capacity to pause from life and appreciate nature. My mind is a whirl filled with thoughts running helter and skelter. I calm my mind and still my thoughts. If nothing else, this self-imposed isolation has certainly given free rein to my imagination as I traipse along during this enduring phase of inhibited and spontaneous time.
I continue to amble along until I come out of the trail towards the open road that leads me home. I inhale deeply, taking in a deep breath, soaking in the silence, the sounds and the light winds, and promise myself that I will continue to discover trodden paths around and walk one every day.