Keeping Appointments

photographs and text by Brian Willson

Some days I don’t feel like hiking up Beech Hill with Jack. Some days like today, a rainy day with one good downpour. But it’s an appointment I’ve made with myself and my dog. And I like to keep appointments. So—late in the day, when the rain let up—we took the short drive to the hill.

Had I not kept the appointment, I wouldn’t have seen all those robins flying around, singly and in one big flock, stirred by the promise of spring. Had I ditched our daily hike, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a little time with my inner child, sloshing merrily up the slush-filled trail—nor felt the sense of crazy satisfaction at having claimed that slushy trail for ourselves. I would’ve missed seeing the magical glow out over the bay when a scrap of blue appeared out of nowhere to let a ray of diffuse sunlight through. I would not have heard the anguished cry of a northern flicker.

Nor would I have thrilled at the sudden flashes of two white flags down the southern slope, as a pair of deer loped swiftly and silently away. (Jack thrilled at them, too.)

In warmer weather, I have a regular appointment with my bicycle. Sometimes I don’t feel like keeping that one, either. But I always do. And I always feel better having done it.

Tonight I see a bright red dot in the sky: Mars, keeping his appointments.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., I hiked the open trail.

1. American robin
2. Northern flicker
3. Black-capped chickadee


4. House finch
5. American crow
6. Tufted titmouse
7. House sparrow
8. Mourning dove