Time like an ever rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away.

They fly, forgotten, as a dream

dies at the opening day.

Today I walked down our road and across the highway to the woods beyond, where Kittredge Brook winds down to Somes Sound. The place has unpleasant seasons; clouds of mosquitoes from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July,  caked white mud and burnt grass in August, cold wet muck in October and featureless white for as long as there’s snow. March seems tolerable. The muck was still mostly frozen under foot, the February flood has receded and the water is pure, showing off its orange tannin underbelly. New England’s answer to howler monkeys, the  pileated woodpeckers, were calling from the flood-dead maples, the deer I startled were fairly fat and sleek for this time of year, and something heavy splashed into the stream, but didn’t bother me. It was a good day.

Rules for walking in the woods alone.

Tell someone where you’re headed and approximately when you will be back, and then stick to the schedule. If no one is around, leave a note. I know it’s hard to fathom, but we don’t have cell phone reception here.

Bring your stick.

If you’re not following a human trail, try to follow a deer track. Deer are stupid, but they do know the best way through the terrain. If the track veers off for no good reason, go right along with it.

If you get wet, go home – preferably by the most public route possible, such as a road or snowmobile trail. You may still die of hypothermia, but this is your best shot at someone finding out what happened to you.

Bring a hat. You’re warm now, and you’ll get warmer walking, but at some point you’ll need a hat.

It is not necessarily paranoid to bring a few emergency items along.  A whistle, a pack of matches and a flashlight aren’t going to slow you down that much. Don’t bring a compass if you don’t know how to use one because it’ll just make you mad when you get lost.

If you have your camera (I always have a camera) and you see something interesting, stop and take a picture. No matter how well you re-trace your steps you will never see that thing again. I have no idea why.

The verse above is from “Our God Our Help in Ages Past”, by Isaac Watts and was the hymn Winston Churchill chose for his funeral.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

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