The next time someone tells me to go take a hike, I will happily say thank you. The D&R Greenway unveiled its easy, looping Poetry Trail last autumn, and now that spring is creeping up and before the trees are fully leaved, it is the best time to appreciate the breadth and sweep of the property. Located in the 55-acre Greenway Meadows Park off Rosedale Road and with parking aplenty, the easy access to the maze of paths, swathed through the grassland, that wind up the hill behind D&R makes this a perfect spot for taking in a vista few realize is there. Who knew that the land on the former Johnson estate rose to a height that afforded a scenic spot for exploring nature or sitting and just doing nothing?
The trail is the brainchild of Scott and Hella McVay. Scott was the founding executive director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation that sponsors a biennial poetry festival. The McVays worked with the D&R Greenway Land Trust to realize the dream, and the trail was dedicated last October on a prime autumn day with masses of friends and family in attendance. Paul Winter played and the sun lit the way along the 1.5 miles of paths. (U.S. 1 October 20, 2010.)
The length of the trail is peppered with 48 poetry “markers” featuring poetry from around the globe and across time. Each of the poems was chosen for how it speaks to and about nature. These poetry markers enhance the scene and bring a new perspective to the sights and sounds that surround you as you wander. Their positioning along the way invites you to wander into the meadow, beyond the path. There is no beginning or end to the trail; start anywhere along the paths and end when you feel it’s time to go home.
If you’ve never been to the trail, come on Friday, April 15, at 4:30 p.m., when Joseph Bruchac, a Native American poet, storyteller, and author of more than 100 books, leads a walk, followed at 6 p.m. by a reception, book sale, and book signing. At 7 p.m., he will read from his work. Bruchac’s poem, “Prayer,” can be found along the trail.
Let my words be bright
images the flash of a gull’s wing.
If we pretend
that we are at the center,
that moles and kingfishers,
eels and coyotes
are at the edge of grace,
then we circle, dead moons about a cold sun.
This morning I ask only
the blessing of the crayfish,
the beatitude of the birds;
to wear the skin of the bear
in my songs;
to work like a man with my hands.
When my friend and I walked the trail recently, we were kept company by a few fellow wanderers with exuberant dogs relishing the sun after this much too long winter. At the top of the meadow, where the silence is most striking, the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” from her album “Clouds,” provide a perfect counterpoint to the massive white landscapes that, as Shakespeare once described, were spanieling across the sky. Benches made from tree limbs, looking craggy and comfortable, dot the paths. The intention is to encourage you to wander, sit, smell the softening earth, and just be glad of space.
Any season would be a good time to experience the Poetry Trail. Here, no matter the season, you can look out on the meadow and relish the words of Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day”:
Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The trail is an inviting place for families, couples, and kids of all ages. Portions of the pathways are paved but all of them are on an easy grade. There is little, if any, impediment to access. The intrgration of the paths with the meadow can make for damp conditions, so if there’s been a rain or if it’s misty, wellies are recommended. A stroll is invited, but if you want a good jog with a hill thrown in, this is perfect because no cars means no exhaust. Each loop around is different simply because nature changes moment by moment. In fact, walk the trail in one direction and turn around and do it again. It will be a whole new place.
— E. E. Whiting
Poetry Trail Walk and Reading, D&R Greenway Land Trust, 1 Preservation Place, off Rosedale Road, Princeton. Friday, April 15, 4:30 p.m. Walk the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail with Joseph Bruchac, a Native American poet, storyteller, and author of more than 100 books. Followed by reception, book sale, and book signing at 6 p.m. Bruchac reads poems from “Above the Line,” “Ndakinna,” and “No Borders” at 7 p.m. His son, Jesse, who is fluent in Abenaki, will also be there. Free but register. 609-924-4646 or www.drgreenway.org.