It's Thursday morning, May 11. The year is 2017. This is New England. This is Massachusetts. This is the town of Sherborn. This is Rocky Narrows Trail. This is the Charles River. Across the field, here, the river is blue sky clouds rippling.
And every foot forward on the path meets a mystery:
What is this plant here? And here?
dogwood, huckleberry, anemones, sarsaparilla
All the bright green fronds, unfurling. The Interrupted Ferns, enchanted fairies, wave their tiny, mighty arms, welcome every being into the forest: where the brook runs, where the marsh marigolds are blooming bright yellow today – where my sneakered feet sink into the cold, delicious quicksand mud.
I remember: when we were children, playing in mud, and the terror, the delighted terror, of thinking we were in quicksand and we would be swallowed up and we were sinking deeper and deeper.
Did this come from a Tarzan movie? It must have been from a movie we saw in the early 1960's when I was a child. . .how we learned about quicksand was very likely from a movie, and we would be in little groups – I might be with my sisters – and you would scream as your feet got sucked down down down into this gooey spring delicious muckety muck of the forest wetlands. You would scream and then you would have to call to one of your playmates, and you would desperately flail your little fern frond arms and someone would grab your hand and pull their hands up your arm and pull pull pull thwick thwack suck schlooop! Your foot would pop out of the muck and you would be free again, and then you would take your next step, maybe toward the edge of the swamp, or it might just be to a rock and the water running around you.
And every May day is the present tense, everything is now, everything is play, a revelation, a mystery.
You don't know how to name the marsh marigolds. You do know how to name the skunk cabbage, because it stinks. You don't know how to name the Interrupted Ferns. But you know how to be welcomed into the woods on a muddy May walk.