I’ve often thought that anyone who complains of boredom at having to experience the same bit of nature over and over isn’t really using his/her eyes. The same bit, over and over, is exactly where the joy lives.

      Take the walk in Norfork. There are two directions: left and right. The walk along the Matney Knob Trailhead is several miles’ drive away; and this time of year it is made dangerous by hunters for whom even blaze orange is no promise of safety. Left and right is what’s at hand. Those are the choices. There’s the joy.

      My little road has no through traffic. No sidewalks. Nothing but the White River on one side and pasture on the other, until one gets to the “river road” where cliffside replaces the pasture. What’s there waiting is the source of the joy. 

      The air on Sunday morning was winter-is-coming chilly; a long hammer blow to the forehead. This was a scarf-and-jacket walk, icy in the shadows, promisingly warm in the sunshine. The same 3,000 or so steps, the choice of left or right. But what wonderful surprises can be there: new calves. Wheeling kestrels. Heron. Golden-crowned kinglets. The first juncos and gulls of the season. Squabbling broad-winged hawks. New colors, fallen stones, land made visible through the fallen leaves for the first time in months. Surprises everywhere. Joy in the chill, renewed at each encounter. The same steps, with an infinite number of possibilities ever time. Relish the sameness. Because nothing is ever exactly the same.

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