PHOTOESSAY BY SUSAN SCOTT
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
February 3, 2016
One of my favorite walks through Langley is along a slender dirt lane, reminiscent of the historic footpaths of the Cotswolds in England. Melsen Alley, just a third of a mile long, serves neighbors as the main footpath into downtown Langley and outlying areas. For the 20 years I’ve lived in Langley, I find that meandering up or down this path can be as enjoyable as my destinations. Homes and businesses along the lane tend both front and back entrances, making it an inviting passageway to explore for people of all ages. But, what I appreciate most is the changing natural beauty to behold in every season.
Setting out from the Whale Bell on First Street in Langley on Jan. 15, camera in hand, I turned left on Melsen Alley and headed uphill, thinking about the joy of living with neighbors who consider wildlife to be a cherished part of our community. At Second Street I noticed how the lush community park featured sculptures of a prayer wheel and heron. I felt privileged to be living under the flight pattern of a nearby heron rookery, catching glimpses of hawks and eagles, and the colorful clans of rabbits sharing our neighborhood.
Henry David Thoreau could have been speaking about my home town when he said, “My vicinity affords many good walks; and though for so many years I have walked almost everyday, and sometimes for several days, I have not yet exhausted them.” Though he traversed familiar ground, he almost always discovered a new delight along the way. I find this to be true when exploring the pathways in and around Langley, with no goal in mind beyond the pleasures of seeing whatever there is to see in each moment.
About halfway up Melsen Alley, I encountered a winter visitor coming down the hill on her way to the library. We greeted each other, simultaneously glancing upward to watch a flock of 15 herons gracefully flying over our heads. Neither of us spoke again until they descended, landing on the trees that marked their rookery behind the middle school’s sporting fields. Before proceeding on our separate ways, we both laughed at how the neighborhood would be filled with their raucous mating calls in February. There’s nothing quite like the herons’ ancient sounding chorus of harsh croaks rising and falling in that almost deafening, yet glorious crescendo that promises new life in Springtime.
When I reached my journey’s end at Melsen Alley and Sixth Street, I looked back down the lane to see that Saratoga Passage beckoned me forth now. As I traipsed downhill, I felt immensely thankful not only for the lovely sky and water views ahead, but for all the treasures that would be opening along the way.
Henry David Thoreau quote from “Nature Walking,” Beacon Press, Boston, 1991
Susan Scott, photographer and author, enjoys daily walks on Whidbey Island and catching glimpses of extraordinary moments of ordinary life with her camera.
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