-- Thomas Moore, "Ageless Soul"
"These are the times that try men's souls," MH tells me as we slowly walk down a gentle incline, kicking through beech, red oak, white oak and tulip poplar leaves, trying to avoid the rocks and roots. He is not talking about what's going on in the world now. He is quoting Thomas Paine regarding George Washington and the War of Independence.
|Looking back up from the hollow. (Margo D. Beller)|
I do not like winter, and since my last post on the subject, MH's father died. As we walk in the woods, past tall, century-old trees that sprang up after Washington's army left after clearing the original trees to build huts and cook their food, it is cold and quiet, only us except for the occasional dog walker.
There are a lot of hills and valleys in this park. This particular trail, named for the New York State Brigade, is leading to what may be THE hollow for which this park is named.
Our hike here was not planned. I stopped here because I like driving the paved tour road through Jockey Hollow when we are headed elsewhere, and then I had to make a stop to adjust something. MH suggested we hike the path near us. Our motivations were different. I was looking for a place for us to walk and maybe hear a few birds. He was thinking of our recent hike at Washington Crossing State Park, the area where, on Christmas 1776, Washington brought his army across the Delaware River into New Jersey to surprise the British at the Battle of Trenton. We hiked near the river after looking at the artifacts at the park's museum. I was not expecting to find any unusual birds but I was pleasantly surprised to find a yellow-bellied sapsucker - a woodpecker I rarely see in our backyard - and a brown creeper.
|Brown creeper, front yard (Margo D. Beller)|
Then, it flew from one tree to another.
I watched it watching me. It called several times. It must've been a juvenile - a male, judging by its size (female red-tails are larger) - because an adult would know that screaming would not get it any supper, winged or otherwise. Finally, it got tired of watching me and flew off. A minute or so later, the small birds started chattering again and MH said he wanted to start the hike back up the hill to our car.
I did not want to leave. A few winters ago I had to have surgery, and in the long recovery afterwards I only started to feel like myself again - well - when I went to the local park and started walking along the familiar trail and tried to find the birds I heard calling, something I enjoy doing.
|Another red-tail in another tree|
(Margo D. Beller)
What you can do is enjoy the world around you, expand your horizons and make a difference.
"Work without play is a burden," he writes. "Play helps relieve some of the weight of labor."
For me, play is going outside for a walk and trying to find and identify birds, even if they are familiar ones I can see at the feeder from my kitchen. Birding is good for the soul and has been a way to help me heal through several winters of personal and professional changes.
|The starkness of winter, Jockey Hollow (Margo D. Beller)|
As Moore writes, "[I]f you work without play, that soul work is neglected, and your work doesn't age you well. You get older as the years pass, but you don't get better as a person."
Like Scrooge on Christmas morning, I now know I can change my ways before it is too late.