A Walk in the Woods: Endings and New Beginnings

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By: John Griffee

Staff Writer

Across railroad tracks and nestled on a dirt road is Topinabee Lake Preserve. There is no grand entrance or signs screaming out to drivers, nor is there a parking lot. Topinabee Lake Preserve is highly reminiscent of one of the first parks I ever covered: Chamberlain Lakes Nature Preserve. 

If you were not aware of Topinabee Lake, you would most likely miss the entrance that’s flanked by growing brush, similar to Chamberlain Lake. What would be missed out on by simply passing these parks by are stories. When I first began writing for The Preface, all I wanted to write about were our local areas because of the experiences that so many people will never see. 

When talking about the stories of parks, I want to make a distinction, there is the spoken and unspoken. The spoken is recorded, whether it be through documentaries, written guides or simply the carving of a name on the side of a tree. Far more common than these spoken stories are the moments captured in the daily cycle of life. 

Each animal that skitters across a trail as someone visiting a park ambles along has its own individual tale, full of experiences, harrowing or mundane. What matters is that the animal plays a part in a larger story, the story of each individual. I will always believe that nature can evoke emotions, thoughts, and actions that you cannot get anywhere else. We are propelled to simply take in all the world around us when we step away from the hustle and bustle of life. 

In my series, A Walk in the Woods, I would never consider what I have written to be a hard end to a story, or even a completed story. 

When we share our experiences photographically, verbally or a minute detail in a text, we extend a branch to others to keep building on what is already present. The trails don’t give up the fact that hundreds of times before our own boots hit that dirt, others have plodded along before us.

Topinabee Lake is like an old painting attempting to depict the contrasts of life as the world has changed. Innumerous flocks of Canada Geese line the yard in front of an industrial complex, honking across from the view of the lake. The air is in a battle to claim whether we are in nature or still on the highway: the edge of society. 

Within the scene captured off a main highway in Michigan, the story never stops, and never reveals what is left unsaid. In the moments when a human is not present, the cycle of life does not stop. Generations of animals still blossom and continue their story, waiting for an intersection with our own. 

Wherever present, whatever the size of the land, federally funded or not, parks are waiting for new authors to open a new page and continue the story. All the moments that pass by without an author present are gone, but there are moments yet to come, and the question is whether someone will be there to find their story. The world’s pages are at our reach and the first step is taking a walk in the woods.

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