Hiking to a Place Called Gratitude

by Mark Miles

Back in June I went hiking along the Eno Riverwalk in Hillsborough, NC. I’ve been visiting this place at least once per month since February when a terrible breakup made me reconsider a lot of things. One of the things I reconsidered was my failure to make time for the activities that I love, those experiences that make me grateful to be alive. Hiking is one of those activities, and it was only natural that I decided to make it a priority on some kind of regular basis. I chose the Eno Riverwalk as one of my regular destinations because I love the scenery and because it’s reasonably close to where I live, reducing the likelihood that I’ll use distance as an excuse not to go. So I’ve been visiting this place consistently for months now and have begun to notice subtle changes along the with each season. Some of these were especially noticeable on this latest visit.

One of these changes was the abundance of foliage and flowers. As I was making my way along one of the trails, I noticed a small yellow flower growing from a bush about three feet in height. It was very pretty but was unfamiliar to me at the time. After some online searching I was able to identify it as a cinquefoil (Potentilla spp.), though the elongated drooping stamens prevented me narrowing this plant to a particular species. Cinquefoil is related to the rose family, and the clustering of petals in multiples of five is a dependable indicator of this. This correspondence with the number five also gives the flower its name, which in medieval French means five-leaf.

Another plant also grabbed my attention. It stood roughly two and a half feet in height, had long narrow leaves, and produced very odd and distinctive seed-pods. The seed-pods themselves were about two inches in length and were covered in grasping spines which gave it a very rough appearance. I wasn’t able to identify this plant, but it was one of the most interesting I came across.

Near the end of my hike, I stumbled upon a bend in the Eno River where the water pooled before continuing on its eastward course. The place was amazingly serene, and I was honestly tempted to spend the remainder of the afternoon there. I didn’t, but I did stay long enough to take a photo of this incredibly expressive sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis). It was standing at the edge of the river and had clearly seen better days. The soil underneath it had been eroded by years of steady motion from the Eno, yet the tree remained in place and tenaciously held on to its life by a thread. Looking at the sycamore and thinking of my own relationship troubles, I couldn’t help feeling the greatest admiration for this tree which had endured so much yet retained its beauty, dignity and strength. In light of that, how could I possibly feel self-pity or despair? I have so much in life to be thankful for, and I have this sycamore to thank for reminding me of that.

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3 thoughts on “Hiking to a Place Called Gratitude

  1. savithri Senanayake July 21, 2016 / 5:19 am

    Wonderful words my dear Mark!
    Best regards my dear friend.

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