At the center of an unnamed European city, a large park doesn’t open its gates until noon. People line up to get in and sit at round tables drinking wine, eating small cakes or playing accordions. Our friend who lives in the city says if they would only open at a reasonable hour — 7:00 or 8:00 — hikers could start their journeys there, setting off on one of ten long-distance trails, which were once the routes that pilgrims took to visit all the lost fingers of the national saint. It’s crucial, he says, to begin at the right place, like a ball that must be thrown from behind the head. I go in search of a conference dedicated to a book they claim I wrote, though I have no memory of it. By the time I find the venue at the far end of the park, the last paper has been delivered and they are pushing the tables back to dance. A tall, thin woman insists on showing me the steps, walking behind me, raising my arms as high as they’ll go. Slower, she says, slower! Let the steps find you. Eventually we are almost motionless except for a slight twitching of the hands. I turn around to face her and find she’s somehow slipped away, leaving in her place an elm tree full of sparrows.
I live in an Appalachian hollow in the Juniata watershed of central Pennsylvania, and spend a great deal of time walking in the woods. Here’s a bio. All of my writing here is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For attribution in printed material, my name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact me for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).