BY Verlyn Klinkenborg – More Scenes from the Rural Life
Main Street in Babylon Village is on the direct route to Good Samaritan Hospital. I live on the eastern side of the Village in a house on Willow Street. A century ago, this was a quiet place. Horse drawn carriages, no motorcycles, trucks, AND cars yet.
Things certainly have changed. While horses produce manure, today it’s exhaust in the form of carbon dioxide and engine fumes. Combustion is the name of the game and at the root of much of the “”intensifying change.” It is EMS trucks howling, sirens and high pitched horns carrying emergency patients to the emergency ward. Main Street is a conduit for noise. People in need of immediate aid from as far as ten miles west of here are carried right through the business district with two story buildings that reflect and amplify this noise. Walking on Main Street when an EMS truck passes without ear protection is to invite hearing damage. This is the backdrop of a modern village stuck smack dab in the path of health emergencies.
Where is stillness under these circumstances? I own a pair of ear protectors but rarely use them. I’d have to carry them around all the time. This is a burden I must bear if I want any possible respite from the startling ever-present cacophony surrounding me. Where is the stillness?
WE are four miles from the North Atlantic Ocean at Robert Moses State Park and Fire Island. There is stillness here. Wind and water purify and decrease the “steady intensifying change.”
I’ve found other places. They all need a car or bus or train to get to. They are parks and trails big enough that walking into them is a way of approaching stillness. None of them are close enough to get to without combustion.
A friend and I recently found stillness on a hiking trail. It is named the Ray Corwin Memorial Pine Barrens Trail. It starts on Whiskey Road in Ridge and ends in Yaphank – 7 miles long. It is away from the backdrop of commerce, sirens, and beeping horns. I shuffled through fallen leaves, climbed over fallen tree trunks, brushed against branches, and heard my footfalls and those of my friend.
We headed south after parking one car at the trail end and driving to the trail head. We followed orange blazes to prevent falling off the trail. The terrain was flat and we fell into a steady, rhythmic stride. Mark spotted wild turkeys and deer. I found some mushrooms I’d like to identify.
Soon we reached a large boulder. It is granite from Connecticut and it’s been here for over 10,000 years. It is gray, and covered with lichens and mosses. It has deep fissures and fracture marks that make it interesting. It has graffiti as well. The rock accents a rather uninteresting forest. Bracken fern has turned from green to dark brown.Pitch pines are steadfast with craggy bark and strong dark green needles that look like circular scrub brushes.The rock is a wonderful stopping place. It breaks up the scene. Coming upon it is a startling surprise.
We passed through the Longwood Estate, a Brookhaven Town historic site and the first and only sign of human occupation along this trail. The straight trail continues south on an unpaved road called Smith Road. It is riddled with large puddles. Some of the puddles have red maple leaves floating on the surface. Little scenes like this suggest the stillness we all long for. The leaves are still, the water is still, the air is still, and we are still.
At the end of this road, the trail dives into the woods and the terrain begins to undulate. As we travel south, we begin to come upon grassy patches on either side of the path. The grass is Little Blue Stem and it has turned a medium tan color. Again, the stillness of these grass stalks takes me far away from the sirens on East Main Street.
We finally reach the trail head, shake hands and bid farewell. Quickly, we return to the background, the din, the bustle. It is sharp and quick. Within minutes, my sore body is ready for another fix of stillness.
Tom Stock November 6 – 2017