When I was little I envied cats. Not because they were rumored to have nine lives. And not because everyone catered to them, despite their detached indifference. No, I envied cats because they were able to explore small pathways and thickets.
All around our home we had ivy covered embankments with small, tunnel like passages through them. These passages were well traveled routes of the many raccoons and critters who lived in the area. Our cats would often disappear down these paths and tunnels. Off on their grand, feline expeditions.
At that age I hadn't read about the magical wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. But my imagination was full and I envisioned the cats prowling down pathways, descending into other worlds. Where did the paths lead? What will the cats find? How do they make their way back? So many magical questions for an inquisitive young boy.
Life experience, aging and a cynical eye have stolen much of my childhood optimism. A lifetime of police work has shown me the unpleasant underbelly of humanity. The terrible things people do to themselves and others. Like a lot of cops, I have come to expect the worst and hope for the best. I suppose a pessimist is never disappointed, but such a world view can alter one's capacity for joy.
Jim Harrison, author of the novella Legends of the Fall (you probably saw the movie) has written about his predilection for thickets. In an article entitled "The Man in the Creek," journalist Kelly Kramer wrote: "Birds, thickets, water and the spirit of simple things pervade Harrison’s work in much the same way that they characterize his existence in Patagonia." Even though Harrison is well into his 70's, he has always found peace in the company of creeks and thickets. Whether in his home state of Michigan or Patagonia, Arizona. Perhaps boys and girls never completely lose their imagination and attraction to the promise of pathways?
I think pathways cut in tall grass, dirt passages into the woods and openings through corn fields all invite exploration. There's a certain peace found in pathways. The human spirit is such that we continue to seek. What's around that next bend? What lays ahead? Like our curious feline friends, perhaps we are always searching? The zen of pathways allows us to slow down in the great calm of the outdoors. As Jim Harrison has found, these pathways and creeks may lead us in many directions, but what we eventually discoverer are ourselves.