Welcome to Episode 1 of “Thinking on My Feet, Doc Bullis’s* Virtual-Radio Trail Report”
*Not an actual medical doctor.
This episode is the first of a ten-episode season of my new blog-based radio show, Thinking on My Feet. Here, you’ll find berry updates, wildlife sightings, and noises heard. Stay tuned as I spend Summer 2015 hiking local trails and attempting to self-heal. Along the way, we’ll appreciate natural beauty, consider eco-news from elsewhere on the Internet, and try to reconcile instances of metacognitive dissonance.
Since you’re reading this as digital text, you’re probably uncomfortably aware that you’re not listening to this trail report with your actual ears. “Jennifer,” you want to tell me, “your blog is not a radio. You haven’t given us a file we can listen to. Please stop deluding yourself and making us uncomfortable.” And I say, Please go along with me here. Embrace the synesthesia, the weird swapping of senses. I have to do this radio show in writing, to maintain my contact with the written word. I need visual images, and, if I join the 21st century soon and get a phone with a built-in camera as my family keeps urging me to do, will post some photos from the trail. I may even post—and here I give you fair warning—gratuitous pictures of my horse*. Mostly, I want to share with you the audio that plays in my head while I’m walking around.
*Not an actual trail horse.
And now, a word from our sponsor.
Thinking on My Feet is made possible by a grant from Solitude, The Balm to Introverts Everywhere ™. Solitude is proud to introduce Thinking on My Feet’s Cast of Occasionally Recurring Characters: folks I encounter from time to time on the trail—some in person, some only in the form of clues they leave—who kindly refrain from engaging me in lengthy conversation.
Thinking on My Feet’s Cast of Occasionally Recurring Characters:
Pipe Guy. Early 20s, moderate beard. Sits on a mossy stump beside the junction of two neighborhood connector trails smoking blackberry tobacco, the scent of which makes me think of my long-departed maternal grandfather. Pipe Guy always hears me approaching from around the bend and, if the breeze isn’t carrying pipe smoke in my direction to alert me to his presence, kindly makes a preemptive remark about the weather so as not to startle me.
Labradoodle Guy. Late 60s. “Walks” two different Labradoodles on alternating days. Greater Labradoodle is blond, boisterous, off-leash; always jumps up and muddies my shirt. Lesser Labradoodle is sandy-brown, boisterous, also off-leash; always jumps up and muddies my pants. “Don’t worry!” shouts Labradoodle Guy from eighty yards down the trail. “He’s friendly!”
The Commuters. Two young men, possibly college students, wearing messenger bags. Bump through the woods on West Ridge Trail riding fixed-gear bikes (not mountain bikes) at high speed as though late for class. Always nod to me wordlessly without taking their eyes off the trail. They are concentrating on not wiping out.
Phone Lady. Mid-fifties, high-volume, patient. Phone Lady engages in cell-phone communication with her elderly mother, for whom she needs to repeat herself frequently. If I had to have phone conversations like that, I’d do it from the trail, too. Phone Lady always greets me Scots fashion, giving me a thumbs-up with her free hand.
Dog Groomer. Mystery character, known only by what s/he leaves on the trail: variously located tufts of dog hair. Hair is white with an orange tinge, medium-length, wooly, often in clumps straight from a dog brush. Judging by volume of hair, the dog is enormous.
Trail Builder. Slowly but diligently constructs new trails through dense woods. Not authorized but obviously skilled; willing to haul and hand-chip deadfall trees to make walkways through muddy areas (complete with 4” PVC culverts to channel water under). Appears to do a little work every day, though I have never seen him/her in action. Hypothesis: Trail Builder is motivated by desire to avoid walking on a stretch of noisy, foot-punishing, crusher-gravel trail built by the Parks Department a few years back. Sharing this motivation plus a love of exploring new footpaths, I appreciate Trail Builder’s work.
Weeder. I have never encountered Weeder in person; I have only seen evidence of her or his passing. Weeder digs up small specimens of non-native plants and leaves them to dry and die in the trail. Occasionally digs up native plants, causing me to puzzle over Weeder’s motivation. Maybe Weeder just likes to dig.
Feeder. Places birdseed on a stumps and feeds the squirrels in two different locations (Fallen Maple Log and 5 Cedars 1 Nurse Log). When I see a new pile of food set out, I’m always tempted to leave a note informing Feeder that feeding wild squirrels is counter to their survival: the squirrels could become dependent on human feeding; they may not teach their babies how to find food on their own; the overabundance of peanuts and sunflower seeds may discourage the squirrels from foraging for other foods they need to meet their nutritional needs, etc., etc. Interestingly, the squirrels in these two places are native Douglas squirrels (small, reddish-brown), not the larger, more-aggressive gray squirrels that have invaded much of the West. Is it possible that Feeder is intentionally (though misguidedly) supporting the Douglas squirrels against this encroachment on their habitat? Is it possible that Feeder is also Weeder, one person on a mission to purge this forest of non-native invaders? If so, why does Weeder-Feeder not go after the rapidly proliferating blackberry vines or English holly bushes in these woods? So many questions.
Flagger/Blazer. Possibly Trail builder; possibly multiple characters. Places various markers (spray-paint dots, colored-plastic surveyor’s tape) on tree trunks to designate trail routes, property boundaries, and who knows what else. Future utility lines? Loggers’ selections? Development plans? Flagger/Blazer is an ominous presence, hinting at changes coming to these woods.
Thank you for listening, and please tune in next weekend for Episode 2 of Thinking on My Feet, Doc Bullis’s Virtual-Radio Trail Report. Next time, I’ll have our first actual Trail Report, including Berry Update, Noises Heard, and Wildlife Sighted.