April Shall Not Fool Me

There is a city park nearby, a large portion of which is hilly and heavily wooded. An unpaved trail takes hikers deep into the forest, down a ravine, and along a small creek.

Columns From: 4/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Mark Albert

Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.

There is a city park nearby, a large portion of which is hilly and heavily wooded. An unpaved trail takes hikers deep into the forest, down a ravine, and along a small creek. This time of year, Stanbery Park is one of the best places to see Dutchman's-breeches, Virginia bluebells, larkspur, buttercups and a host of other spring wild flowers.

One particular spot is especially isolated and enchanting. A branch of the creek drops down steeply just before it bends beneath a high, straight-walled bank of drippy blue-gray shale. Mature elms and beech trees tower overhead; their budding branches softly filter the light of a clear spring noon. The quietude and beauty are seductive. Without thinking, one could become an ardent nature lover, even an environmental activist.

On a lunchtime visit, I can easily imagine that, barely two centuries ago, this whole region must have looked liked this, the untouched wilderness, pure and pristine. If the clock could be turned back...

...what a fix I'd be in. The village is still a half-a-day's hard travel by foot before it's reached. My game bag is empty, even after days of hunting. The children at home will be hungry.

The cut on my ankle from a slip against a sharp creekstone is painful and festering now. The limp will slow me down -- it will be harder to outrun a hungry beast or elude the enemy scouts patrolling this stretch of the river valley. And changing winds and high clouds say that rain is coming.

Perhaps I should spend just a few more moments amid these wild flowers to see if I can find the white blossom in a leaf like a cupped hand. Its root bleeds an orange-red juice said to help heal wounds and relieve pain. My ankle cries for it. There it is, by the water's edge. But what is this in the muddy bank? A paw print. It is deep and very fresh. The bear must be full-grown. He is probably not far away. I hear the loud snap of a twig...a deep growl...

Whew! Thank goodness this is almost the 21st Century. Though out of sight, homes, a shopping district, office parks and industrial areas are not far away. Civilization surrounds with the embrace of a benevolent mother.

In ten minutes, I can be back to my car in the parking lot. A hundred paces more and I could be at the back door of the Burger King across the alley. But today, today I think I'll just use the drive-thru.

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