Guest post by: Adria Nemeroff, in memory of Peter Falkowski
I should tell you that while Peter only lived in proximity to Henry’s Woods since June 2018, I have lived nearby since age 10, and he still seemed to know each path like the back of his hand. I followed him for miles and miles, enjoying the views, nature and changing light as we went. He was the adventurer, the trail blazer, the seeker. I am an accountant who never would have braved hiking alone, and I was grateful for Peter in my life as a trail guide in addition to a multitude of his truly amazing other wonderful qualities.
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I had only met Peter at the end of November 2018. We hiked all through the winter and I saw such beautiful frozen nature scenes with him, icicles forming on every surface to create a deserted outdoor palace, the beauty of a frozen waterfall on the rocks across the stream, a trail of snow that had yet to incur a single footprint. It was magical. I could not have known that we would have only one season together hiking the trails all around our Lehigh Valley, PA area. I was looking forward to every one of our planned adventures for the upcoming months when he passed away suddenly at the age of 48.
Hiking through sadness
The sadness comes to me in waves, sometimes fierce ones that knock me to pieces, and other times gently nudging me with a reminder of things we did or places we went that brought me happiness. Today, thirteen long days after the police called me from his phone and shattered my world, I decided Peter’s pack had been sitting too long indoors without a single adventure. So, in spite of a flash flood warning in my area and the dreary look of this spring day, Peter’s pack and I walked into Henry’s Woods for just a spell.
There were already drops on my windshield as I parked, and the rain intensified with each step toward my predetermined minimum distance. I wanted to get across the bridge and down the path to an opening in the fence, where we had gone to the water’s edge together. Peter showed off his expert stone-skipping capabilities, all the way across the stream with ease each time. I supposed that as a boy in Poland, he spent many days with friends exploring the great outdoors. There would have been plenty of practice.
The rain continued to come, so I placed Peter’s pack and snapped a quick picture with my phone, just in time to see a text come in that bear had been spotted in the area. If the rain was not deterrent enough, I guess bear sighting was a good reason to end the adventure for one Friday afternoon. I mused to myself that Peter sent the bear, unable to be without me in the unknown beyond for too long. Then I remembered I have a small child to raise, and I sauntered back toward the parking lot again.
Spring and new beginnings are on the way
On my way, I noticed how different everything appeared in just the few weeks since I had last been in those woods. Greenery was popping up all around, the signal that soon the woods would fill in and that the grey appearance of a mist low in the winter trees at dusk would no longer be visible to Peter’s pack and I. But Peter would have stopped and appreciated with wonder the beauty of a new season in those woods, so that is what Peter’s pack and I will do in his absence.
I walked past a light grey tree trunk and felt its texture, just as I had seen Peter do often as we walked. He said using more senses helped him to feel grounded, and to be present and confirm it was all real. I did feel present on that trail, hoping not to encounter a bear, wishing Peter’s pack could have its owner back so that he would be walking beside me again, very tall, graceful, and confident. I supposed I would get used to the silence, where in the past he and I had talked together for hours as we roamed. I willed away tears for a moment then refocused on my present, and the rain now soaking through my shirt.
I did make it back to my car myself, sat down, thought I should probably invest in some bear spray, and gently set Peter’s pack next to me in the passenger’s seat. It was just the one baby step of getting out there on my own. I was unsure how it would be, going it alone after having the safety of Peter’s companionship for every other outing. But I can’t let Peter’s pack down. His sister Maggie entrusted it to me because I said I wanted to take it back on the trails we roamed, and on even more adventures he would have enjoyed.
Peter, that is exactly what I intend to do.
PS – I love you.
|About the author: Adria Nemeroff is a CPA currently residing near Allentown, PA. She began the Peter’s Pack series as a tribute to her departed companion and hiking partner Peter John Falkowski, who’s enthusiasm for the scenic outdoors and artistic talents for photographing landscapes inspired her to keep going outside. Peter’s Pack will now roam on adventures both familiar and new in loving memory of him.|