What was I thinking? Noon? On a glorious fall day, when schools were closed for Columbus Day?
I visit the Morton Arboretum regularly enough that I did not need to visit it on Monday – but, I did. I was really on a specific errand to pick an item up at the gift shop, but, soon realized I had chosen one of the busiest days possible to come.
I decided to by-pass the parking lot I was being directed to and drive to the lot at the Thorndale Education center; a good move. The lot was all but empty and the Joy Path was at my beck and call.
As I wound my way onto the footpath, a woman suddenly emerged out of the bushes. “Oh! Here it is. I’ve been looking for the Joy Path. Have I found it? “. I assured her that she had and we walked companionably for a few minutes. Like myself, she had decided to depart from the “maddening crowd”. She asked me a few directional questions and said she was visiting from North Carolina. We chatted as we walked about the torrential weather in the Carolinas, the magnolias that grow in our respective states and I mentioned a favorite author of mine from Charleston,. My brief walking companion had heard of Andra Watkins and said she planned to read her book about the Natchez Trace, “Not Without My Father . . . “.
The proverbial fork in the road approached, she wended right while I stayed the course along the Joy Path, just as the sun poked out from under the clouds and spread a slice of buttery yellow across my path.
Eventually, the path led me to the Visitor Center, the long line to the ladies’ room, and a very busy gift shop. I stopped in my tracks for a moment, overwhelmed by the glorious colors that have begun to emerge.
I treated myself to a yogurt parfait and iced tea, then headed back on the mile or so path to my car, the afternoon shadows already beginning to draw their shadows along the earth. As I crossed the road to my pathway back, who to my wondering eyes should appear? None other than my early North Carolinian walking companion. We exchanged pleasantries, then she returned to the Visitors Center while walked upon the footbridge; two strangers in the woods, one from down south, the other from up north, on a glorious September day.
It is amazing how quickly the leafs’ colors turn hereabouts. Where there was but a hint of gold yesterday, the first flicker of reds and oranges have entered the landscape today. This is what I was waiting for in dog days of August, and what I try to remember in snowy depths of winter.
It is the slant of the sun, the sparkle of jewels on the water, and chance meetings along the paths of life that warm the small moments and lighten our steps along the way.