On a slack tide I step onto the gooey mudflat where unkempt grasses await the water’s return, and dip my boots in Long Island Sound. The narrow beach is coarse, littered with broken shells, leathery seaweed, claws and shards of crab carapace, and small surf-polished stones. A slight breeze caresses my skin and water laps at the sand like a dog slurping a drink. I breathe the primordial odors of salt and muck, sense in my veins a nexus with seawater.
On either side of this narrow corridor to the sea, houses guard the shore against wanderers. Their many windows peer down at me and across the gray-green water floating a few small sailboats.
Heading inland I take the short, curving boardwalk across a narrow marsh and over a low dune thick with brush and flowers, the yellow eyes of bluish-rayed asters peering as I pass by. Crossing the close cropped lawn of a soccer field freshly limed with boundaries, I spy three clouded sulphur butterflies dancing above the grass. My step lightens and the trail draws me onward.
legs at tidewater
pump a private sea of blood
it all begins here
(Haibun is a marriage of prose and haiku. It was first practiced by seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho who perfected the form in a journal he kept on a trip to the remote regions of northern Japan. Gary Snyder, James Merrill, and Jack Kerouac are among American interpreters of the genre. Haibun best expresses the spirit of the New England Trail because it combines clear-eyed prose descriptions of people, objects and places along with poetry that awakens the imagination.)
The New England National Scenic Trail, a unit of the National Park Service, runs 215 miles from Guilford, Connecticut to the Massachusetts/ New Hampshire border. The trail is maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association in Connecticut and the Appalachian Mountain Club in Massachusetts. For more go to https://newenglandtrail.org/