I stood at the trail head early in the morning. I’ve walked Morse Mountain many times, but always with friends, family and my children along. This summer, on the verge of an empty nest, challenging myself to move out of my comfort zone, I’ve been venturing out alone. On this glorious morning Morse Mountain was my destination. The day promised to be a gift from summer—wrapped up in blue skies and sunshine with a trailing ribbon of breeze.
Morse Mountain is a midcoast Maine gem of hundreds of protected acres of woods, salt marshes and beach. The trail winds through a range of scenery up and down, eventually depositing you, two miles later, at a pristine beach, bedecked with salt-bleached driftwood and garnished with strands of tangled kelp and seaweed. Although it’s an easy hike (calling it a mountain seems like an exaggeration) the distance deters many beach-goers or at least those encumbered by vast quantities of beach-going paraphernalia. This ensures a lovely tranquil setting at trail’s end and a place on my family’s favorite-spots-to-visit list.
On this morning I followed the path down into a marshy area, drinking in the changing scenery along the way, smiling as invisible frogs twanged their internal banjos. Chiseled earthen channels marked the tide’s path through the grasses and the marsh pulsed with varied shades of green in the bright morning light. A heron took flight as I approached, white wings vivid against the glowing green.
I continued hiking up cool, speckled forested paths lined with granite outcroppings.A small chipmunk scampered silently over mossy paths. The drum drum drum of an industrious woodpecker punctuated the air, accompanied by the soft thud thud thud of my footsteps. A red squirrel contentedly haunched on back legs, munching on forest bounty and eyeing me suspiciously. From high above drifted the caw caw caw of crows, the soft coos of mourning doves and the distant jarring cries of gulls. The eerie metallic buzz of insects sounded repeatedly.
I relished these sights and sounds and enjoyed setting my own pace. I stopped as I pleased to take pictures, to listen, to watch. But simultaneously I listened to an internal soundtrack. Though I saw and heard no one on my trek to the beach, the woods echoed for me with childish voices, clamoring, chattering, complaining. I felt the whisper of a small hand tucked in mine, a ghostly embrace of arms twined about my neck as a weary one piggybacked up a steep portion of the path. Laughter. Crows of delight and discovery. These echoes and shadows teased my memory as I explored the path in solitude, filtering my present through my past.
I arrived at the beach, welcoming the warmth of the sun on my skin as I emerged from the trees. There were no limits to my stay—no agenda—no needs to tend to other than my own. I could sit or walk or wander as I willed. Able to lose myself in the hypnotic rhythm of the waves. No distractions. No way to mark time passing and no need to do so. Only the backdrop of surf, sun and sand and the occasional murmur of voices wending my way on a salty rose-scented breeze. I pulled out my notebook to write. Alone, accompanied by sweet memories of the past, I unwrapped the day and savored the present.