When I showed Drew the bouquet I collected on my morning walk, he said, "Well, it looks like it's seen better days."
"True," I conceded, as I turned the brown, crispy, shedding remains of once vibrant wildflowers in my fingers. "But there's a story here."
"I thought there might be," he nodded, knowing that the story wasn't far behind. And it wasn't.
It all started last Sunday morning when I set forth on a well-trodden path, a ritual of sorts, from our condo in Portland, Maine to Portland Head Light, a 15-minute drive away. The Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in Maine, completed in 1791, along the rugged shore of the shipping channel into Portland Harbor. The lighthouse was my destination, but I rarely reach it by simply traveling from point A to B.
Step 1 – Stop at Scratch Baking Co.
Bypassing the fresh-baked bread and bagels, maple banana bread, breakfast sandwiches and scones, I select a bran muffin, brimming with Maine blueberries. With a cup of decaf in hand, I head out the door before the scones coax me to take a few of them along.
Step 2 – Park at the Head Light and walk the cliff trail.
Step 3 - Veer off the trail to my favorite rock.
I discovered the rock at least five trips ago, or maybe it discovered me. I needed an outdoor place to be, a solitary spot where I could listen to what was around and inside me.
The landscape is browner than the last time I was here, more on the winter side of fall. The world feels quieter, like it's taking a deep breath, which will last for several months. I look more closely at the generic brownness around me, so easily dismissed as drab. Breaking off a stem here, a dried flower there, tiny seeds fall in my palm or fly upwards upon pieces of fuzz. Within the brownness, rests new life. Within me, stillness.
Step 4 – Follow path to the lighthouse
Gently clutching my bouquet, I walk the remainder of the path to the Head Light. I circle its broad base, pause at the railing to watch the surging waves roll then splash, and re-read the bronzed stanza from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Lighthouse.
Sail on, sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man.
The story goes that Longfellow, a resident of Portland, frequently followed his own well-trodden path to the lighthouse. I picture him sitting on a rock, waiting for the words to come.
Step 5 - Retrace steps
When you arrive home from traveling a well-trodden, or brand new path, you bring things back with you – some tangible, others more abstract. At the end of this lighthouse journey, two new items were in my tote bag, a bunch of dried flowers and a muffin for Drew. Less visible... a welcome calmness, an anticipation of the season to come when I – like the dried, brown flowers – will find rest and restoration.