Morning Walk

The July morning is gloomy. A drizzling rain does not deter me from going for a walk in the woods. A cool 66 degrees is a welcome respite from the 100 degree temperatures of a few days ago. It had been so hot, the asphalt on the tarmac at Reagan National Airport in D.C. had melted underneath a plane.

It must have rained really hard last night – all creatures are still taking shelter. A downpour cleared the path of dead leaves – tree roots are clearly visible through the forest floor like pumped veins full of chlorophyll, the blood of the woods.

I am disappointed that I do not run into any deer with their lovely fawn, or the red fox staring me in the face intently and defiantly, the occasional rabbit crossing my path, or squirrels darting to and fro.

The rain intensifies but the thick canopy sifts the large raindrops into a mist that cools my skin. The silence is soothing and comforting. I forget about the world in turmoil outside of the dense forest.

The path winds up and down along downed trees from the recent straight line winds. Sixty foot giant pines will be slowly devoured by parasites and rot, turning them into soil-enriching dust. I reach the Snake Bridge. I baptized the walking bridge after the snake I encountered one late afternoon – he was resting in a coiled position after a satisfying meal bulging from his belly. The water underneath is higher, teeming with small fish and frogs. I do not see any snakes, they must be hiding too.

Steep stairs guide me to the road. I walk alongside the road until I reach the river. The water level is high against the banks. A lone fisherman is casting from his boat, stopped in the middle of the Potomac. A light fog envelopes the banks on both sides. A father and daughter team are fishing underneath the railroad bridge. The fish are really biting. I wonder if they are catching catfish or snakeheads, an invasive species from Asia. Someone had dumped their aquarium pets into the river and they are multiplying like crazy. A man caught an 18-pound snakehead in the Potomac near historic Occoquan. Fishermen catch them for rewards; others eat them as a delicacy. Snakeheads certainly do not look appetizing to me. It is amazing that they can breathe out of water and actually crawl on the ground.

Walking along the river’s edge, water is lapping against driftwood and rocks, very close to my path. As I reach the forest on the other side, I hear the whistle of a slow-moving freight train, barreling towards the bridge. I am wet now; there are no trees to protect me for a short distance. As I enter the woods again, I cross three more walking bridges. The water is lapping underneath my feet, making the wooden planks quite slippery. A few ducks are out on the river’s edge, catching a morning snack.

I turn around and backtrack into the main forest, careful to watch my footing. The ground is soaking wet and treacherous at best. The smell of rain, wet soil, and rotting vegetation is intoxicating. The drizzling rain looks like a sheer curtain draping the tall trees in the finest silk. My shirt and hair are soaked. Tiny beads of rain trickle down my face, cooling my neck and chest. I take a few photographs – nature is alive with shades of luminous greens, yellows, and chocolaty browns. A few white and yellow flowers in the middle of the marsh look like lost hibiscus. The lotus leaves are a luscious shade of green.

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