A luxury that I can rarely afford while I am working is taking a daily walk in the woods. But now that I have the gift of time, the forest beckons. Daily. And it never disappoints, especially as the trilliums are in the height of their short but spectacular season. I’m a creature of habit, so I usually follow the same path. It is the trail that begins at the intersection of Anne Street and Carson Road.
I may walk the path every day, but the experience is always different, because the woods are never static. But this particular trail holds a mystery for me, and it has for years. There is wooden cross on the side of the trail with the name “Remi” written across the middle of it, where the two beams of the cross intersect. For years I have wondered, “who is Remi?” Sometimes the cross has plastic flowers at its base. For a time, it had a small Acadian flag attached to it, hinting at Remi’s heritage.
I wonder who he is, or who he was, and why there is a cross there that bears his name.
My mind unfortunately wanders to the worst-case scenario. Having officiated over the years at far too many funerals for people who have lost their lives in accidents involving snowmobiles/dirt bikes/atv’s, I wonder if the site marks the place where Remi’s life was taken in an accident. Or maybe not. Maybe Remi was an older gentleman who loved to walk the trails and when he died someone put a monument to him to celebrate his love of the wilderness. Or could it be that Remi put it there himself? Perhaps it is a silent testament to his faith.
I wonder, as I wander!
If someone knows the story of Remi, I would like to hear it. Or would I? Something about me likes that it is a mystery.
The astronaut Neil Armstrong once said, “mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of our desire to understand”. And he should know. Wonder and the search for answers lifted him to the moon (or to a Hollywood movie set, if you buy into the conspiracy theory about the moon landing). But it’s true. It’s nice not to always have the answers to everything, but to let the mystery sit with us and hold us in its shadowy grasp. Mysteries can draw from us our capacity for creative thinking and storytelling, and in time they can lead us to greater understanding of our world and our place in it.
Perhaps that is why I like the woods so much. It is a place untamed. It is a place of mystery. There is beauty and peace to be found in the woods, but there is also chaos and disorder. There is life in the woods and there is death is the woods. It can settle our sprits, but with one wrong turn, it can engulf us in fear. The truth about the forest is that we never follow the same trail twice, because the woods are always changing around us, offering new mysteries to ponder.
Millenia ago our species left the woods to hone our place in the open spaces of modernity, but something within many of us draws us back there from time to time, as if to claim something we left behind something that is essential to our humanity. Henry David Thoreau made this point when wrote, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”
My forest trail holds so many mysteries. But I like that. My mind may want answers, but my soul is happy to sit with the questions.