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  • Writer's pictureColin Phelan

Out and Backs

Peacham, VT

Out and backs

Often stigmatized in the trekking

Or walking worlds

As some say:

Why would anyone want to

Walk the same path twice?

Preference resides

In the big loop,

A path that supposedly

Will not be repeated;

Built on the premise that

More ground covered

Equals more sights seen

And more experiences had.

My recent preference, however

Lies in the opposite,

That out and back.


After the hard turn around

The route remains the same;

But unlike the loop

Where all territory is new,

The out and back affords

An opportunity to look back upon,

With wisdom and a sense of comfort,

The road once

And sometimes strainingly


What began topographically

As an uphill

Now goes down,

Or vice versa.

The backs of signs become fronts

Seen from afar

Instead of not at all.

New smells, for a gust of wind

That might have been at your back,

Traveling up

The wind tunnel within this out and back,

Now collides with your face

Filling you with manure or hickory

Or Maple

Or Petrichor from the street

From whence you came,

Now where you return.

The loop,

Rushing to get it done,

Thriving in the discomfort,

The unfamiliarity of it all.

The out and back,

In fact brings you full circle, full looped.

On the way out you live through the discomfort

On the way back you think about such discomfort

You once lived through.

While you are not yet home safely or in the clear

You know,

At least from an objective hazard standpoint:

That root there, that tree there;

You know what is coming.

A hazard on the way up may facilitate

Grace on the way down.

I wonder if this is what retirement is like.

And the dog,

Once a terrifying nuisance

On the way up

Becomes but an old friend

On the way down.

Initially disturbed by my presence in this land,

My scent grows familiar.

And those you run back into

For a second time

They know and are flattered by your interest in

Such a place

In their place.

Not just here to rush through

For the quick, fast time.

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