Most weekday mornings I take a two mile run around the neighborhood and finish by stretching in front of the house. I make sure that I stretch before walking in the door or otherwise I will be swept up in the shouts and exclamations of two little yogurt covered faces.
As I stretch, I look up beyond the branches of the giant maple tree in our front yard and I think to myself, I want to see the earth. I want to feel the rough hewn red rock of Utah or lay in a giant grassy field out west that is lit by nothing but stars. I am desperate to see the redwoods.
I often think of the part from the children’s story, Can't You Sleep Little Bear, which goes, “ 'What dark?', asked Big Bear. 'The dark all around us,' said Little Bear." I repeat this phrase over and over in my head, but instead I think, “What earth? The earth all around us.” I have sat on this thought for months. That as soon as the world opens up we are going to go out to meet it.
This year given everyone’s limited abilities to travel, we planned a staycation. In doing so, we discovered a number of places in the drive-able area that are stunning and that I had no idea existed. It helped me to reframe this idea that I needed to go somewhere in order to see the earth.
While I do want to travel and see landscapes that are so jarringly unique that I am knocked into awed stillness, there is so much to behold in the earth all around me, right here where I live. I want to seize this strange and unusual time to get to know this place where I live rather than to yearn for some other day and some other place – another lesson in being present.
Beyond the beach at Hammonasset State park there are a handful of walking trails. They are tucked away behind the parking lot at the very end of the road that goes through the park. It’s hard to tell that they are there since the parking lot and the trails are divided by a wooded area. But back behind the parking lot is a second parking lot and behind that is an open field, charcoal grills, and a covered pavilion.
We followed the trail on the far right, called the Cedar Island trail, beyond the field through a narrow, wooded passageway that was dwarfed by the salt marsh surrounding it. The air was fresh with salt and pine needles. Peering through the trees we saw long necked birds standing knee high in the water. It was cool under the canopy of leaves. The sun dabbled in pockets of water, entwined in grassy reeds.
As we neared the end of the path we walked along an elevated wooden walkway that opened out onto a deck. It overlooked a bay in the Long Island Sound. Across the water in the distance there were tiny boats bobbing along at a marina. It was quiet and earthy. It felt like we were standing on the earth that I was looking for.