I was chatting with a neighbor the other day, a geographer who studies the impact of climate change, and he told me that in twenty years, Massachusetts may well have weather more like Virginia’s, and Maine will be more like Massachusetts. Certainly feels that way here in Central New England over the past few days, with temperatures hovering around 90° F.
The one advantage for me, personally, is that my spring digital ulcers are finally healing in the heat (with some help from a round of antibiotics). As long as it’s not humid, or so hot that I must relent and turn on the A/C, I flourish in this weather.
So, despite the temperature, on Saturday afternoon, I walked to a nearby park in our fair city, a green oasis in the midst of traffic and stores and homes and apartments. I’ve been trying to build up my physical stamina on this three-mile route, which includes following a circular, inclined path that winds up a hill—a drumlin, geologically speaking, an oval mound of moraine left behind by a receding glacier millennia ago—to a clearing at the top, where there’s a flagpole and some granite benches. I made it without stopping to catch my breath, this time, an accomplishment. A pleasant breeze and the canopy of trees kept me comfortable along the way.
As I walked the spiraling trail, I recalled something from high school physics, how the angle of an inclined plane affects the amount of effort it takes to move an object upward. The trail’s gradual slope was a perfect example. There were a number of detours, paths that led more sharply up to the top, which I avoided, because they would have required too much exertion. No, I just kept walking gradually higher around the hill, which enabled me to maintain an even stride, manage my breathing, and keep going.
At the flagpole clearing, I rested on a bench and watched a jet high above, tracing a line that disappeared behind a large cumulus cloud, waiting for it to reappear as it flew farther west. I listened to the hum of traffic below, beyond the trees, and a loud voice on a speaker somewhere ranting about something. I hummed a melody and waited for my heart to stop pounding from the climb, gradual as it was. I inhaled the fragrance of flowering trees and evergreens. I wondered who came up here to mow the grass. I prayed for insight about our troubled country and planet and how to find my role in all of this. I left when the jet disappeared behind another cloud, and began my gradual descent.
I didn’t get any big answers to those big questions, which hover in my mind every day. But the spiraling walk up the mound-print of an ancient glacier has given me an inkling—that for all the valid urgency of the present moment, there is also value to patient inquiry, to slow and steady progress, to finding answers that stand the test of time. For one who needs to conserve energy on the climb, as age and scleroderma dictate, that’s the path I’m inclined to follow.
Image: Zoltan Rakottyai