Traveler, There is No Road.

The trail where I ski changes every afternoon. The exposed earth eats away at the snow. The icy patches are harder, or the day has warmed and the snow swooshes mealy beneath my skis. In late afternoon, it’s me and the dog walkers, or two women, always deeply engaged in conversation.

The tech center students have half-tapped the sugarbush. The drop lines hang down in the back section of the sugarbush. The students are gone, too, leaving the tramp of their snowshoes, nothing more. The sunlight comes and goes all day, warm or gloomy. Fresh snow is scant this winter, and the trail’s ice is embedded with a scattering of hemlock and cedar greenery, small things that I fear will snag my skis but don’t.

The streams and rivers are running but the season of frogs is a long way off.

Finished, I clean nubbled ice from my skis with my fingers. A splinter is embedded in my thumb from a piece of firewood, stuck and sore. I press my thumb on the ice, listening for spring birdsong. There’s the sweep of wind, my heartbeat; nothing more.

There’s a reason why King Arthur’s knights were instructed to keep off the trails when searching for the grail, the logic being that if they were on the trail then they were following someone else’s path, so that particular path could not be their true path. Their only hope was to forge their own way through the woods. As Spanish poet Antonio Machado writes: “Caminante, no hay camino/ al andar.” Traveler, there is no road. You make the road as you walk.”

— Stephen Cramer

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