I have been a walker from way back. I was first introduced to the delights of walking by my grandfather when I was a child. Every time he visited, he and I found a moment to slip away to the large field a block away from the house where I grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
When I was very young, the field was home to a herd of black-and-white cows, and the huge barn in the corner stored cocoa beans: the two chief ingredients of our town's famous milk chocolate right there at the end of the street. Eventually the cows moved on, and the barn was transformed into an antique shop.
I recall the Christmas that the field's stream flooded and froze, and my sisters and I ice-skated there; and the August night we lay in the grass by the barn and watched a meteor shower. But most of all, I remember the walks in that field with my grandfather.
Each venture brought a new discovery: brilliant summer sunsets; a pheasant hiding among the corn stalks one fall; winter's crystal ice formations; a carpet of wild violets and a duck's nest full of eggs in spring. By high school, my walks in the field were solitary. I went there almost daily, to think and listen and plot my destiny.
In college, I continued the ritual in a different setting. I discovered a large, old cemetery a few blocks from my campus in Maine, on a hill overlooking the Androscoggin River. Since snow visited Maine from October to April, most of my memories are of trudging through a deep blanket of white. The snow laid a hush on the earth, and once I passed through the cemetery's creaking, ancient gate, I was enveloped with quiet among the tall pine trees.