January Walk, Mill Brook Valley,West Tisbury

When I was a kid, my main water haunt was the Tiasquam River, which ran just below my house. From there, its valley extended upstream another three and a half miles. The Tiasquam valley was my second home, where I went frequently, sometimes alone, sometimes with companions. Those few miles of the Tiasquam valley were a place for adventure, a place for for fun, for friendship, and for fish.

The next watershed over, to the east and north, was the Mill Brook. I didn’t spend as much time over there. It was farther away, on the other side of the village. Even though it was still in my home town, it felt a little bit foreign.

Lately, the call of the foreign has gotten louder. So twice in the last month I’ve spent time in the Mill Brook valley, and yesterday was one of those days. The wife and I needed walking, so we went off in the truck about a mile, to a good place to start. We drove off the highway a few hundred yards, and parked the pickup behind a big brush pile at the side of a field where my friend Jim grows corn.

At the other side of the field was a big pile of rocks. Rocks, taken from the field and piled aside to make cultivation easier. We went and looked at the rocks.

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A January cornfield. And a pile of rocks.

Where we are walking, glacial rivers once flowed. That water tumbled rocks in its flow. In strong currents, even hard, sharp-edged granite chunks get corners knocked off.  Then they get rolled around and rolled around some more until they’re — round.

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A heap of rounded rocks.

We said goodbye to the rocks, and strolled through the stubble, over to where the flat field drops down to brookbed.

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Into the woods. Into the valley.

The grassy slope down to the brook was full of young cedars and hawthorns. We snaked our way through the emerging trees.

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Finding a way around a hawthorn. They are very thorny.

We wished we had a grandson or two along to enjoy a scramble through the miniature forest. But the nearest grandson is hundreds of miles away and the farthest ones are half a world away.

In Japan.

Through a hole in the branches we saw the other side of the valley.

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Outwash contours in January sun.

We snaked and scrambled some more, hopped a fence, crossed the brook on a rotting bridge, rassled with a creaky old gate, and turned left down an ancient road, no longer used by cars, but still used by people.

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Heading northwest up the valley bottom.

The “panorama” setting on my camera is glitchy, and its images do not always smoothly transition from side to side. Sometime the accidental turns our better than the purposeful.

This glitchy shot was a happy accident, and makes an unintended triptych.

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The accidental triptych.

In recently plowed ground we saw a potshard. Perhaps an old pitcher or bean pot?

To feel the curves on the surface was to feel work done by human hands centuries ago.

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The potshard

Illuminated by slanted sunrays, the color of the shattered vessel’s interior still glowed with life. Time has enriched the original simple glaze with wear and oxidation. Who made this? Who used it? How did it break? What made those calligraphic scratches?

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The sunlit glow of ancient color.

What a detour! From a potshard! We weren’t even halfway done with our walk.

Time! I sit here, mining two hours of walking, picking over a hundred photographs, and so far we’ve just dabbed here and there and gotten a few glimpses.

All these words have barely scratched our trip’s surface.

So it’s time to omit more.

But there’s time for two more pictures.

The first is of an ancient roadside oak.

Perhaps it’s as old as that shattered pot.

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An ancient oak clings to life. And leans on a wall.

The second picture is of a group we met as we walked our last few hundred yards.

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Foraging feral turkeys.

A fine flock.

How many?

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4 responses to “January Walk, Mill Brook Valley,West Tisbury

    • We have considerable more freedom to roam now that it’s wintertime and the summer people are gone. When I was a kid you could go almost anywhere you wanted. Most rich people don’t like people coming on to their property, for some reason. And it’s rich people who’ve bought up most of the land around here. Though for the east, we have incredibly high percentage of land preserved for public access, either by outright purchase or by easement. Almost every land transaction here
      has a 2% tax on it, and that money goes to buying conservation land.

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