A parishioner told me about a hike to an old hunting lodge that time had forgotten long ago. It was there before the Great Depression, and was probably a grand thing where men would escape to smoke and drink and occasionally, if it met their fancy, to shoot at animals. But the Depression made the men poor, and in their poverty, they forgot about it. Time has had its way with the road and the lodge, and now, only the foundation and subtle hints of the road remain.
Under the cover of autumn leaves I made my way up the path winding through the woods. There was no one to keep me company except for the sound of the breeze in the tops of the trees and the chipmunks and squirrels frantically preparing for the winter while dancing across the fallen leaves. The parishioner warned me: “It didn’t get its name for no reason; be careful, there are rattlesnakes.” So I stuck to the old path and didn’t flip any rocks, although knowing the danger only made me want to wander more.
As I reached the top of the path, a man on his cell phone stood on top of a rock adjacent to the trail. It was a strange and jarring thing to witness. He was clearly taking an extended business call. It seemed odd and foreign in this now undisturbed place. Yet at the same time, I felt the urge to check my own e-mail. Giving in, I felt guilty disturbing the quietude with trite business. I wondered if the man shared my guilt.
A few hundred more feet and I found the almost-forgotten lodge. Some of the foundation rocks had been pilfered for a nearby campfire circle. If it weren’t for the legend and a mark on the map, the place would probably be lost to time, just the corner of an old structure lost in the woods.
When I announced I was moving to the south, people were worried I’d feel like a fish out of water. In California, I learned to talk slower than I was accustomed to in Maine. I had trained myself to tap my foot when I preach to keep pace. I suppose in Maine we never really felt that you had to hear all the words as long as you got the gist of what was being said – plus, brevity is a gift, as we say in the northeast. In the south, I’ve learned that there’s a story for everything. It is told meticulously and slowly. I’m getting used to it. I mentioned this to someone who had asked me about how I was settling in. They told me, “Of course—and every story is important, and we don’t mind if things are a little slower.” I suppose I like that. Slow isn’t bothering me so much.
Yesterday, I read that a man was arrested near where I grew up for walking slowly across the road while dressed as a tree. In an interview, he talked about his desire to see people learn to take their time. I thought he was going to be a kook, but I liked some of what he said. I am slowing down, slowly.
It’s funny how the degenerative nature of time can give us pause, slow us down. How entropy, when not counteracted, causes everything to fall apart. The other day a wise congregant of mine stated: “Everything of man falls apart.” The all-but-forgotten Rattlesnake Lodge, now a slim corner of foundation, sits deep in the woods at the intersection of several trails. It is disturbed only by the occasional passerby and wind and rain. Time and the busy squirrels take no notice of the once noble lodge as winter marches closer.
Ian Dunn is an Anglican priest and writer who is slowly learning to delight in the beauty and wonder of the world around us.
photo by Alyssa Dack, @abdack