by Bhaktimarga Swami
The image was so vivid – autumn leaves spiraling down from the heights of hardwoods. Our eyes were widened to the stark reds, oranges, and yellows. It was captivating. A magical descent. Prettier than snow. Beauty reigned for sure. We saw it also in the lichen, fungi, and mushrooms. David sees it in the wild ginger. He forged some for the dhal to be cooked up for later on. For snacks along the trail, Oksana brought her baked muffins. Jaya, ambling in pace, was quiet, focused on japa meditation. Gyan is more talkative, and while in queue behind me, repeated the mantra, ‘be careful’. At one point along the rocky trail I had to say, ‘please don’t mother me’. Gyan means well. His consistent smile redeems it for me.
And, there was Christopher, his first day with us. He resembles Jesus somewhat, with his full beard. During our trek today, he lost balance twice, slipped and fell. So did I, fall, but not like the leaves. It was my first fall since starting the Bruce Trail in the summer of 2018. I’m able to make the time when available, on which occasion I bring friends. One day, a group of southeast Asian students came along, numbering 35. They LOVED it – ‘it’s all green!’ said one (it was summertime). New to them, also, was the frivolous water fun. After 10 kms walking in grand Lake Ontario, ‘isn’t that an ocean?’ asked another.
Challenges: The Bruce Trail is a 900 km path along the Niagara Escarpment, where the terrain is mostly angular. At one point the trail, a creek the rocks and leaves all merged. It is tough to gain a foothold. But, for the most part, the day is one of rhapsody. There are plenty of waterfalls to calm any nerves. I take it back – no challenges. I’ve done 1/5th of the trail.
The greatest reward of a day like today on a Sunday October morning, 2019, is the culmination of our walk – a visit to a god-brother, Giri Jadhava, my former sankirtan leader of my early monkhood days. He prepared a great meal for our walking group. The apple cider was a big hit, even after a mere 9 km hike.
And let it be noted that a walk like this builds up gratitude.