The winter solstice is almost here—and the days will begin to lengthen once more. I haven’t been bothered by these cold winter days, in fact I’ve enjoyed dressing warmly with scarf and hat and heading to the river to walk. My dog has learned to swim and despite the 40* water he wants me to throw a stick—but he whimpers as he carries it back. Since he’s a standard poodle he doesn’t have the undercoat or the water-shedding hair that labs do so I have to make sure he doesn’t get too chilled.
Today I walked with him in the woods where I’ve been going for the past ten years. It’s a forested area next to Lewis and Clark College that has many trails used by people commuting through since it leads down to a major road that parallels the Willamette River. But today a sign from Portland Parks greeted me as I entered the forest. No this, no that, dogs on leash only, etc...etc…And then I saw that the path I normally take was covered in downed limbs with a notice that it was under restoration. I skirted around it and found the way to my usual path.
I zig-zagged down a hill, across a stream and up the other side. Within fifteen minutes I came to a fence that had been recently erected with a sign: No admittance—under restoration. All I had seen so far was ivy clearing, cut Laurel and Holly branches. The trail went on as usual and I followed it, my dog bounding happily in front of me. I turned right at the fork and headed downhill. Last winter this trail was covered in ice from the heavy rains that had frozen. I enjoyed the feeling of adventure, knowing that I would probably not see another soul. And today the forest was equally quiet.
I didn’t check to see if the tree-house college students erected a couple of years ago had been pulled down but I have a feeling it has. There was an enormous fire pit in front of the well-constructed wooden platform and slats nailed to the trunk of a Cedar tree and I had marveled at the careful work. At the bottom of the hill where I always turn off to make the loop, another fence greeted me with the same restoration notice and a huge pile of sticks and leaves. It was harder this time to get back to the path but I managed it, my dog as well.
Maybe I should heed the new rules, not let my dog run free. But in ten years I have run into maybe ten people. It’s one of the few places I’ve counted on for privacy and freedom. I feel restored after an hour under the grand trees. There are hardly any places now where a dog can be off leash—except for the dog parks, which have their own set of problems.
Why has this place, left alone for all this time, suddenly been taken over by the rule-makers? As I faced the signs I realized I have a proprietary feeling about these woods—I pushed down my desire to write a nasty epithet in magic marker and instead enjoyed the towering cedars ands firs, the unfettered joy of my dog.