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.
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.
We said goodbye to the rocks, and strolled through the stubble, over to where the flat field drops down to brookbed.
The grassy slope down to the brook was full of young cedars and hawthorns. We snaked our way through the emerging trees.
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.
Through a hole in the branches we saw the other side of the valley.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The second picture is of a group we met as we walked our last few hundred yards.
A fine flock.