In the Right Place

Editor’s note: Brooklin author/photographer Richard J. Leighton creates the popular “In the Right Place” posts online about life and nature in Maine. He shares a post the second Thursday of each month in The Ellsworth American.


The Yellow Trail

By Richard Leighton

The late Mary Oliver was one of many poets and essayists who confessed to having a compulsive need to walk alone in the woods. She explained her search for such solitude this way: “I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours.”

Of course, such reverence is not reserved for poets and essayists. Nor is it really an attempt to find solitude in the literal sense, nor necessarily a search for peacefulness. It seems that some of us need to escape humanity at times and be absorbed into a place full of different life — furry, feathery, leafy, and other — where we can see, feel, and think differently.

Some of us also seek — just sometimes — a place where we can experience a mixture of wonder and mild fear that makes our life briefly seem fuller.

The local Yellow Trail is one place to go alone in winter to experience that anxious wonderment. It’s rough and icy and dark and even dangerous in spots for those who are not careful. But it’s where you can disappear into a quiet, non-human dimension.

It’s a place to have a staring contest with a barred owl and to realize suddenly that a patch of shadow contains a trinity of does, standing still, ears up, watching you with unblinking dark liquid eyes. It’s where you can travel back in time by tracking the journeys of small neighbors that also have chosen to come this snowy way. Mary’s prayers could have been answered here.

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