At the trailhead — again.
I’d circled back after the first fork in the path.
No, I’d said to myself, don’t just trudge ahead guessing at the route to the overlook. From the clear plastic box at the bulletin board I pulled out a worn edged, folded copy of the trail map.
This had been used before, it said, in photocopied etchings and softening edges and creases. Used probably multiple times, in fact. Wasn’t the only copy, but it may as well have been, it said. Just enough copies for the hikers out there today, if they needed it.
I needed it.
I kept thinking about the map in my back pocket, unfurling it carefully with sweaty fingers at each new fork in the road. I’m not the first person on these trails, the map said. If it had been a clean copy of the map I wouldn’t have thought as much at all about it — but instead, I was determined to return it to its plastic box again, to pay the map forward even further, betting that it could guide someone else.
Its frailty helped define its purpose — to be used here, not taken back down in the car out of the parking lot. Make something more like this, to begin with, if you want it to be recycled more often. Something to borrow. Signal its virtue of impermanence.