I arrive later than usual,
a bit distracted.
I’m surprised to find the five-day-old snow
has not been cleared.
Seriously? No one could be bothered to plow?
But there’s a path of sorts, of stomped down snow,
from walkers earlier in the week.
It rings around an approximation of the paved trail.
Just walk there, I tell myself.
But that’s not the actual path, says another part of me.
See right there? It arcs too wide. Misses completely.
That’s grass peaking up through those bootprints, not pavement.
What’ll it hurt to follow it? It doesn’t have to be exact.
You’re being compulsive. You think too much.
Thinking’s got nothing to do with it.
You know the path well enough. Walk where it IS,
not where someone else imagined it was.
Oh, shut up. Aren’t walks supposed to be meditative?
Why don’t you shut up yourself, and meditate on doing things right?
I move forward on the bootworn path,
hoping for a little quiet.
Then comes a small voice,
at the very back of my head.
You know, you don’t have to walk on the path.
I SAID… You Don’t Have To Walk On The Dang Path!
I stop. Or nearly do.
You could walk right across the middle, you know,
straight across the park.
You could walk in a spiral!
You could go on a crazy walk.
Like a dog chasing a squirrel.
Just look at all that snowy space,
where there aren’t any footsteps.
Meditative? Yeah. Right.
I continue forward on the bootworn path.
One lap. Two laps. Three laps. Four.
It’s finally quiet.
I’m all done.
It’s time to go.
But as I walk out of the park, it hits me:
If I were to look back right now
there would be no place I could point to confidently and say,
“There. Those. Those are my footsteps. Mine.”
The small voice clears her throat.
Thoroughly self-conscious and awkward,
I turn around and walk back to the trail.
I step off, into a small, untraveled snowy place.
I stomp, and I leave two of my bootprints behind.
Satisfied? I say.
Sure. Yeah. Whatever.
The little voice goes quiet, and then leaves me alone.
But I begin to think,
as I turn and make my way back,
that I’m pretty sure
I haven’t heard the last of her.