Of Hardscrabble Wilderness and Wives

A few weeks ago, our daughter astutely observed that although Deirdre and I often argue, we seldom fight. Our arguments, I think, are generally good natured and aimed more at keeping cerebral synapses crackling than anything else. 

Most of our fights, on the other hand, have been in the style of Burton and Taylor (well, not really, just in the style of them the way that my over-55 softball team performs in the style of the New York Yankees) and generally have their genesis in the application of the arcane science of Earthly Navigation. The next time one erupts, I could probably count the total number of prior combustions on my fingers except that the odds are that, in lieu of my own neck, said digits probably will be busy wringing the steering wheel of a vehicle, owned or rented, in some godforsaken place like the Ohio Turnpike or Flatbush Ave. 

Well, until July 19, 2009, at any rate. That's when Deirdre and I embarked upon what I hoped would be the genesis of dozens of years of hiking trails together with our trustworthy, if equally geographically challenged, pooch. 

IMG_4497We didn't venture too far from home. Guided by a book, Walkable Westchester, newly purchased at 10% discount due to my newly purchased membership in the  New York/New Jersey Trails conference, I picked a spot about 15 miles north of us that was said to have an "incredible" amount of stonework.  My admitted battiness about rocks and stones is (too) well documented, and whoda thunk there would be wilderness just 2.3 miles east (or is is west?) of the world headquarters of Reader's Digest magazine?

It's laced with stone walls that probably date to the cow pastures from post Revolutionary War land divisions and is ringed by McMansions that probably date to the late 20th Century Wall Street 401K Bonanza, so it's kind of hard to imagine why it's called the Hardscrabble Wilderness Area in the first place. I was thinking Well Trodden Dirt Paths in the Land of Milk and Money would be more like it.

Until we got lost. 

On its 3.8 miles of blazed trails in 235 measly acres. WIth a map. And occasional strolling natives to consult for fabled a New York misdirection (or was that a different fork in the road to the left you were talking about, young lady?). 

[Helpful Hint Dept.: For those you you who've never gotten lost in New York City and environs, rather than display ignorance, natives will give you explicit directions to places whose location they don't know from the Main Mall in Missoula.]

A few weeks ago, faithful readers will recall, and less faithful ones can read about, we hiked 'with friends who not only know that a setting sun indicates a westerly direction but also know how to effectivey utilize that information. I dare not suggest Deirdre is as bad at navigation as I am, but she has always seemed to accord maps the same measure of respect that she reserves for Terms of Service contracts, which is to say she refuses to read them, and, I believe, like me she checks to see which finger her wedding is on to figure out left from right.

Well, as I always say, all's well that ends without search planes looking for you (remind me to tell you that story someday; Deirdre was not involved). We eventually gave up and guiltily emerged from the woods through someone's manicured back yard after a few laps around the paths. We found our way back to the car, which was parked about a half-mile away on a paved street near the trailhead, and discovered that we could, once again, talk without our teeth being clenched.

When I got home, I looked again at Walkable Westchester and noticed from a blurb on the back that authors Jane and Walt Daniels, who evidently have been cohabiting residents of Westchester County for 41 years, nine more years than Deirdre and I have been married,  venture on their hikes with "GPS and measuring wheel." 

I have dug out a Garmin etrex Legend that Deirdre gave me for a Father's Day present  several years ago. I tried it out on a business trip to Washington, D.C. soon after and found myself in Alexandria, Virginia, instead at the Smithsonian, but I have resolved, for the sake of Holy Matrimony, to not venture in any park with Deirdre that doesn't include the words "vest and pocket" until I've mastered its use.

Then again, the ways of wives can be as inscrutable as a compass bearing. For our 30th anniversary, I went out and bought a Magellan GPS unit for the car. I told the kids that the gift would be from them to us. They didn't even have to pay for it. All they had to do was draw on their life experience and write a little something about how this device would insure that they would not be the products of a broken home. 

When Deirdre opened the package, her face sagged. It was as if she'd found my little black book.

"What are we going to fight about?" she asked.


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