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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Old Paths







 Our neighbor Teresa walks her large mastiff Molly and Australian Shepherd Duke every morning through our 66 acres, but I don't get up early enough to encounter them.  I only see signs of them later when I venture out on the old trail.

I followed a deer path through the woods today.  You might wonder, "Where do deer paths lead to?"


Our deer paths lead from wild apple tree to wild apple tree in the woods.  Following deer paths in the autumn is the best way to find apple trees ready for picking.  We have over a hundred in various stages of growth and over 9 varieties of apples.



The deer still hope an errant apple or two will drop, but they have mostly dropped and been eaten now. But still, the deer follow the old paths.

And that brings me to a book I read last week, which I enjoyed immensely, titled The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane. It's available on Kindle, but I decided to read it in hardback.  I'm glad I did -- it's a keeper.  "Paths carry memories of a person, just as a person carries memories of a path," says the author. Here's the review I gave it on Amazon and on Good Reads:


My criteria for giving a book five stars is that during the day I think on what I've read, and look forward to continuing my adventure with the author at the end of day; and the writing must be good. MacFarlane's writing is lyrical and masculine, too. He's not writing a guide book for you, but inviting you to come along with him over old and ancient paths. Why would he recommend you walk the treacherous Broomway, where incoming tides over foggy quicksand have drowned hundreds? Simply walk beside him as he attempts it. My favorite treks with him were through England and Scotland, as he relates history, anecdotes and the natural beauty surrounding him. But Palestine and Tibet would have had me at the edge of my seat, if I hadn't been lying back in bed. Sail with him along the ancient water roads through the Hebrides. Meet his adventuresome friends, including Isle of Harris sculptor, Steve Dilworth, whom I did look up on the Internet so I could admire his work.  



The best writing for me was MacFarlane's description of his ritual walk across the Cairngorm massif in Scotland, south to north, to attend the funeral of his grandfather, a mountaineer. I will be reading his earlier book, Mountains of the Mind, in which his grandfather is featured. He follows the Icknield Way and other paths of England in the footsteps of Edward Thomas,a writer and poet, who was killed during World War I in France. As an American, I was not familiar with Thomas' writings, but found MacFarlane's delving into his life and jaunts interesting, and that he was a friend of Robert Frost, who inspired him to become a poet. This book is full of little surprises. A joyful read.