Every morning for more than two years my malamute and I strolled the solar system. Neptune, we learned, is 2.77 billion miles from the sun. Uranus, the next planet in line if we headed toward the sun, is 1.71 billion miles from the heart of our solar system. Next-door neighbors 1.06 billion miles apart? These numbers were too large for my earth-bound mind to grasp, so I set out to pace the distance from one planet to the other. Do you have any idea how hard it is to count that high while walking with your dog on the bike path? I lost my place whenever I greeted someone passing in the opposite direction, or when Trav had to sniff the bushes or snatch a tennis ball that some other dog had left behind. When at last I counted 285 and 288 paces on two successive trips between Uranus and Neptune, I knew I was in the ball park.

Then I counted paces from Uranus to Saturn: 272. To my surprise, it was almost as far from Uranus to Saturn as it was from Neptune to Uranus. I could have figured this out from doing the math with the figures stenciled on the pavement, but walking made it easier to grasp. Saturn, at 839 million miles from the sun, is roughly as far from the sun as it is from its outer neighbor.

On our late afternoon and evening walks, Trav and I often started from the other end. Between the innermost planets — Mercury at 29 million miles from the sun, Venus at 66 million, Earth at 91 million, and Mars at 127 million — each stride covered about 4 million miles. Walking briskly, I averaged a little under 3.5 million. Yes, I did know that if I were outbound from the sun the planets wouldn’t line up as neatly as they did on the bike path. Some of them would be way off in the woods somewhere. Nor do they move in neat concentric circles.

Still, the distances were impressive. And Earth didn’t seem like the center of the universe either.

The solar system was a combined art and science project of West Tisbury School fifth graders in the spring of 2016. When it was still a work in progress, their teacher told me that they’d gotten permission from the state. She added that the bike path was due to be resurfaced soon.

Soon didn’t happen for almost two and a half years. This fall Trav and I got to monitor the meticulous repair of our multiply fractured bike path around the state forest.

The early harbingers included mysterious marks on the asphalt, orange or pink ribbons attached to sticks with numbers written on them, and orange enclosures at irregular intervals. The latter, I was told, were to protect sensitive plants. Then men and machines appeared. Trav wooed at the machines — malamutes rarely bark, but they often

woo, and sometimes howl — and several of the men were pleased to make Trav’s acquaintance.

The many horizontal cracks across the bike path, which made for a bumpy ride for any wheeled vehicle, were excavated into little trenches, refilled with dirt, paved over and graded. The planet Mercury (29 million miles from the sun) had from the beginning been bisected by a crack. Now it had a wide asphalt belt across its middle. The gray bike path was striped with dark belts where the cracks had been.

Then in the almost-last step in the process, the entire bike path was resurfaced with a thick layer of black asphalt. The dark stripes disappeared — and so did the planets.

I miss the planets. I miss striding from Earth to Mars to Jupiter and beyond, noting the immense distances between them and trying to imagine the vastness of whole galaxies.

I’m hoping that next spring, or maybe the spring after that, West Tisbury School fifth graders will recreate the solar system on the bike path. And who knows? Maybe other stretches of pristine asphalt will lend themselves to creative projects. Until then — I remember that it was about 288 paces from Uranus to Neptune but barely 11 from Earth to Mars. That helps me keep things in perspective.

Susanna Sturgis lives in West Tisbury.