by Evan Edwards
Between the trailhead and where we stood, my son and I, there was a vast expanse of time and a very small amount of space. I’d carried him, with the dog’s leash on one wrist, from the parking lot, up through a small thicket of brambles to where an old railroad must have run, past the bridge, and steeply down the hill to the flat banks of the river where the path began. Here, thirty feet down from where the rest of the landscape lay, the water, in moments of heavy flooding, would rise up and wash out all the foliage on which we were now standing, leaving fertile silt behind as if in repentance. This periodic effect might have been part of the reason that this flat of land beside the water was so open and uncrowded by the thick of trees that dominated the landscape at higher grounds. With the land so leveled by the water’s irregular rising, and the foliage thin and unobtrusive, it was the perfect place to explore.
I had set my son, River, down on the cleared out space upon which we were supposed to walk and went ahead in an attempt to coax him more quickly down the trail. I half wanted to wear him out so that he’d take a good nap, but I also had hoped that by letting him walk on his own, he’d at least try to keep up so that we could do together what I love doing so much alone: walking through the woods. Of course, the same thing happened that always happens when I take him along on a walk without carrying him. That is, we ended up spending a significant amount of time milling around while he explored and pointed at things I didn’t immediately see.
In this particular instance, we spent about fifteen minutes near the trailhead. I had our Malinois’ leash in my hand, and a diaper bag strapped across my back, walking along the ground where other walkers feet had beat a path. I went back and forth, slowly, and sought a goad to move River along the water’s edge, against the current that was moving lazily in the cold, snowless and rainless drought of January. I could see where we’d “started” our walk, could get back there in a moment if I wanted, and couldn’t shake the feeling that we were wasting our time.