I’ve recently spent a lot of time touring the canal on my bike and on foot. The same thought strikes me every time, I’d love to describe this, but how?
It’s impossible for me to focus on one aspect of the waterway. Do I start with the fact that I first thought the trail that runs along beside it was called a toepath and not a towpath? Or do I talk about the way it’s changed since I first moved here?
In the beginning the water barely covered the bottom, and the wildlife struggled to stay alive. Today it’s filled to the brim, and the geese protect their young and police the path with a ferocity that would make a lion step aside. I always pause as they guide their fuzzy young ones across the path and into the water.
Do I mention that there are a million colors of green? Well ok, maybe not a million, but have you ever stopped to notice just how many shades there are? Especially when the sun drops low in the sky and illuminates the leaves from behind.
Do I try to describe how the seasons change? How the daffodils fade and the wildflowers flourish as spring wilts into summer. How the shades of green turn brown along the path, but explode in a fire of color above as summer fades into fall. How the snow blankets the dusty brown earth and crunches under my feet as I run in the winter, the air so still that you wonder if you’re really all alone in the world. How the path awakens as the snow melts and spring arrives.
Is it the people I watch along the way? The quiet communication and camaraderie between runners and cyclists, greetings exchanged with a silent nod or a barely perceptible wave. The whir and plop of a casting lesson, an excuse for young lovers to touch, an opportunity for a father to bond. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand why they’re fishing there, the brown and murky water cannot possibly be the home of an edible fish.
The canal is ever constant, and always changing.
Outside of winter, even the time of day makes a difference. The mornings reserved and quiet, the afternoons brimming with activity. It’s as though the canal slowly wakes up throughout the day. By the time evening comes, it’s ready to handle everyone. It welcomes the runners and walkers, the cyclists and strollers. The path embraces couples who have been together forever and parents strolling with their young children laughing and running ahead, but never out of sight.
Along this path, I run and I ride. I’ve rejoiced, and I’ve cried.
How do I describe something that is ever constant, but always changing?