The Trail to the Cairns

If you walk out Canterbury Road from my house it turns into an old woods road, eventually petering out.  It used to be the way to Canterbury, and at a party at a neighbor’s house decades ago, a man from Canterbury told me he used to ride his horse from his house to my neighbor’s house on that road.  Many many years ago.

Eric and I walked the road often.  It rises slightly from my house, passes an old cemetery bordered by dairy pastures, goes back down hill, back up through grand old maples, down and up and down again many times as it passes houses and then heads into the woods, passes a junction with two other old roads, then about two miles from the house loses its definition.  There’s a large glacial erratic that sits along the road side just about where the road becomes indistinguishable from the ramble of woods around it, and that’s where Eric and I would stop.  Sometimes we’d hang out for a while, just happy to be in the woods.  It was our turning back point.

After Eric died, I started building cairns on the big rocks, a monument to Eric.  I walked out there often in the first two years after he died, adding to the cairns each time I went.  Then in July 2008 a tornado ripped through Northwood and laid a wide swath of downed trees and bramble and jumbled branches across the road, about a quarter mile short of the cairn rock.  I tried walking around it once shortly after the tornado, but the road was perpendicular to the tornado’s path, so the mess of downed trees went on for as far as I tried to walk around it.  I got lost.

After the hurricane, my neighbor who owns the land told me he planned to clear the tornado damage and open the road again.  I’ve been walking or snowshoeing or skiing out to the point of the tornado path for almost four years, hoping to find the road reopened.  When David and I walked out the road on Tuesday morning, our neighbor was working on moving and cutting the trees.  “It should be done in the next couple of days,” he said.  Today we walked out there again, and there were two young men, still clearing the last of the thick white pines that were the main trees to come down in the face of the tornado.  “We should be done by the end of today,” one of them told us.

But there was enough cleared for us to get through this morning.  I was so happy to get back to that rock, to those cairns, happy to pick up the few rocks that had fallen and put them back on top of one of the three piles.  Joy can be so simple.  A blocked path in the woods, open again.  Cairns at a turn around point, on random rock, rock I can reach.

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