(Be forewarned: this is a dirty post. Some discerning readers may even call it shitty.)
Here we are, you and me, together – all of us, really, even those you and I don’t like – travelling along our little trail. For the sake of sounding insightful (and at great risk of sounding corny), I’m going to say that at the beginning of the trail is a cave and at the end is a cave. Both dark and mysterious places. There are some who claim to be Cavers, to know that darkness, but I’d say we all know the same: nothing. We all start and end at the same place.
Our trail is not linear. Sometimes we find it on a map. It is marked, it is well-trodden. Other times, we can’t see any markings. We tear up the darn map, or others kindly/not-so-kindly tear it up for us. For our own good, for their own good. No matter, it is torn up. Ho ho! Sometimes we off-road, forge new trails.
Today, I am plain lost (of Mind), looking for Meaning. I know, there are those who say you are never lost, you just don’t recognize the trail, Dodo! I am uncertain of what to believe. That’s why I appear to Not Be Moving at times. Some say you will have a more satisfying life if you go about convincing yourself that everything has a purpose, moreso, a Meaning, even the ugly, especially The Ugly.
On this early Spring day, on this urban river trail at the base of an exclusive golf course, there is only shit, dog shit clambering out of the melting snow. The Great Melt when the snow that once blanketed the dirty world in white, making it clean and fresh and Pure, now reveals itself as merely a thin veneer over months of dog shit, candy rappers, used condoms. Within 20 minutes of the trailhead, I found over 40 piles of poop, two of which I stepped in. How rude! How inhumane of dog-owners! Hang them! Wrap the shit in newspaper, place it on their porches, set it on fire and ring the doorbell!
My sign says: “Dog owners. Get your shit together. Unwalkable…”
The trail markings here have words: Beware of flying golf balls, a diversion designed to trick hapless walkers to look up when the real stinking danger is below.
This is the Cutten Trail, land that once belonged to Arthur Cutten who made a fortune betting on wheat in the Thirties, a fortune never uncovered, a fortuned rumoured to be buried here in this dirt and dog shit. (Hence, the occasional sighting of those middle-aged Metal Detector Men who have strayed from their beachside habitat.)
Along all trails lie both mierda et flores. (I’m showing off my cosmopolitanism here with these Spanish words because that is how trail walking was explained to me by a girl, a Pelegrina as we called each other, who I met on the Camino trail in Spain twelve years ago. She walked this ridiculously long, madly famous path (as many have since Medieval times) searching for Answers of Great Concern. Would she continue walking with her fireman husband, or would she leave him for the shoe salesman in Valencia? I was asking the same question about my partner back in Canada, but the decision was more difficult as I had No Shoe Salesman. (And I was mostly the problem). There was that hunky buck-toothed Brazilian pilgrim on Day 8 who waved me back on the trail from whence I have strayed- surely a Sign, this was The One, my life-changer. But he was of a different mind, resulting in embarrassment and sangria.)
Mierda et Flores. Flowers and shit.
Here are a few flowers I recall over my years of walking the Cutton Trail: The Spoon Tree, The Message in the Bottle and The (butterfly-stomach) Hand Holding.
Number One: The Spoon Tree. Some wood nymph hung a dozen mismatched Grandma silver spoons on the branches of a tree. They called to walkers by clinking in the wind. Old spoons of Real Silver, eventually pinched, one at a time until there was none, likely pinched by students for their dorm rooms at the University on the hill. (Students: forever the scapegoat.)
Number Two: The Message in the Bootle. Another time, I followed a rogue trail down to the marshy riverside where tucked beneath the exposed root of a Willow tree was a Jam Jar. In it was a lined piece of paper torn from a notebook with These Words: You are loved. I wanted to take this love letter with me to make it mine, Mine Alone, a Special Message for Special Me, but there are a thousand special mes for whom this message is also written, so it must be left where it was found.
Number Three: The (butterfly stomach) Hand Holding. Long long ago, in another me, a Barefooted Boy slipped his hand into mine on a morning hang-over walk. It was so exciting I nearly threw up. Nothing came of it, it was never spoken about, he found another Special Me, yet the feeling is still alive in me today. Is it for the boy?
One good thing is, if you look for it, there is always worse shit. Once, on a Night Walk, I found a pair of men’s underwear, extra-large, full of human shit just off the trails’ edge. A drunken accident? Illness-induced, a desperate act of a hiker, a homeless man, a student heading to an exam who literally shit his pants?
Or was it another love letter for Special Me, in disguise? (See above, the Ugly has it’s meaning, too. One man’s trash, etc… ) Is this a reminder of our shared humanity: we are all Vulnerable? You, me and the stranger, too.
Merdes et Flores. Don’t flowers grow in shit?
Everything in everything. They are the same. The joy in the suffering, the suffering in the joy. Can’t you see the pretty colours in these pictures? When you don’t look too closely? Or when you look really closely?