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Walking Sticks

It was 59° F when I woke this morning. The humidity is still high, but the coolness of the air offsets it enough to open the doors for a bit. Nothing is better than an infusion of fresh air in the house especially after the doors have been shut tight for so long.

This is the type of morning I recall from my childhood — cool mountain air heralding a gradual decline of summer. It almost feels as if I can feel the earth take a deep breath. Maybe it is actually me breathing after another long, hot summer of isolation.

I was thinking about the parallels of the different places I’ve lived. In Virginia, we walked everywhere and it was not unusual for us to trudge through the woods and walk the railroad tracks. On Sundays after church, we would often go for hikes — adults and children alike. We often cut walking sticks to help steady ourselves along the less than level footing.

Boys would often cut walking sticks for the girls they favored. Out came the pocket knife and the rough bark was removed to make a smooth place for the hand to grip the stick. The promise of young love was often expressed by initials carved into the wood.

When living in Alaska, I fell in love with walking sticks cut out of diamond willow. Diamond willow is not a specific type of willow, but the result of a certain fungus that causes the phenomenon on several different types of willow trees. The bark is stripped off, leaving a distinct diamond pattern which I find aesthetically pleasing. Many other people seem to agree these days. Walking sticks carved from diamond willow range in price and many with intricate diamond patterns can be very expensive.

subarcticmike, Diamondwillow, CC BY 2.0

Now we live in an area that has so many beautiful trails with open spaces to hike or take more leisurely walks. Most of the places are hilly or steep terrain so I still employ a walking stick. My current walking stick is retractable made of aluminum with a strap and a compass embedded in the handle. A far cry from the walking sticks of my youth.

It’s still hard to beat diamond willow walking stick, though.

19 thoughts on “Walking Sticks”

  1. Walking stick or hiking stick they are more similar than different. Mine is a piece of maple tall as me and a bit too large for the fitting in the car. And I probably should dust it off and give both of us some exercise. We could both do with a little time lost in the woods. Thanks Maggie for triggering some good memories.

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    1. I am sure we could all dust off our exercise routine a little, John. Walking is such a peaceful way to get the old body moving. There’s nothing like a walk in nature to renew the spirit.

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    1. I’ve read it takes a lot of work to properly strip and clear diamond willow. But as someone who appreciates the natural beauty of wood, it is beautiful to me and well worth the effort.

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    1. From canequest.com:
      Diamond willow is not a separate species of willow; rather, it is apparently the result of attack by one, Valsa Sordida Nitschke, and possibly more types of fungus. It is thought that 7 species of willow grow cankers in response to the fungus. However because some willow species hybridize in the wild, proper identification is difficult. Cankers, or diamonds, form as a result of the tree’s response to the fungus.

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  2. Wonderful post! The diamond willow stick is beautiful with a fascinating background story. I love your description of “cool mountain air heralding a gradual decline of summer. It almost feels as if I can feel the earth take a deep breath…..” Looking forward!

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