While I find great pleasure in spending time with family and friends, and meeting new acquaintances, I also treasure solitude. There are times when I need to be alone with my thoughts. One of my favorite escapes is the rail trail near my home. This rail trail carries with it many memories. For almost thirty years of my life, this was a working railroad track, and my days were marked by the trains that chugged past. My godfather was a brakeman for the railroad, and he rode the trains on this track for many years, so I also carry the memories of his stories in my heart.
Several years ago, this track was abandoned by the railroad, and our County bought it and began the long process of creating a beautiful rail trail for our local communities. Today, it is a favorite destination for walkers, bikers, and runners. Some sections border the back of homes and businesses, and some are totally wild — filled with trees and wildflowers and deep ravines that drop off sharply a few feet from the trail.
There are days when I walk with neighbors, carrying on conversations as we walk, days when I push my twin grandbabies in their stroller, and days when I walk with my older grandchildren. The vastness of the wild land surrounding it is breathtaking, and I most often prefer my solitary walks, when I can let my mind wander from thought to thought, or focus on the beauty of the wild world around me. I love to take photos when something particularly touches me. A short time ago, as I walked along, I spotted two tall trees which had grown toward each other at the top, forming a lovely arch. Had it not been for the steep drop-off just beyond the arch, I imagined it as a lovely little arbor area for a small wedding, or a teatime picnic, a sort of fairy-tale treasure.
Most of my everyday life involves interaction with loved ones and friends and community, and I enjoy being active and involved and close to the people I care about so deeply. And yet, there is that need inside me for solitary time — time when I don’t have to interact with anyone or be responsible for anything. I treasure any bits of solitude that come my way during the day, and I certainly do not have to be walking the beautiful rail trail to find peace and tranquility, but I am thankful for this lovely haven that has been created for us. I love the sounds of birdsong, wind in the treetops and the gentle flutter of butterfly wings, and I feel my godfather’s soul walking along with me — quietly, demanding nothing from me, but reminding me that he was once here too, and that he loved me.