It all began with a paper cup.

For decades, I have walked Sunday mornings from Music street in West Tisbury down the Middle Road to Chilmark. I usually start back soon after seeing the holly near the Chilmark town line. A road crew, years ago, cut it down. But to my delight it grew back and no recent road crew has gone after it. Not far beyond, Mermaid Farm chickens cackle and in spring lambs baa. Sometimes I go on to nod to the oxen at Gimbel Farm.

I carry a cane with pincers on the end to pick up roadside litter and a bag to put it in. Retired nurse Anna Alley, a frequent fellow-walker, gave the pincers to me. Once I turned 90, she was nervous about my clambering up roadside banks after beer bottles and empty cigarette packs or sliding, in these Covid days, down slopes after discarded masks.

Occasionally papers I have picked up have turned out to be of some value. Once I found two crisp $100 bills that had slipped from someone’s pocket. I notified police in West Tisbury and Chilmark. Police in both towns said if the bills had not been claimed by midnight, they would be mine. They weren’t claimed and were put to good use when I left the next day on a two-week trip to Europe.

In spring, summer and fall, daisies and blue chicory have brightened my walks. In winter, I admire the winding, snow-covered stone walls that, to the imagination resemble dragons stretched out for naps.

To get to the Middle Road, I must first head down Music street. There’s a grand old oak with three trunks that truckers have tried to have cut down because their high tops strike its lower limbs. Years ago, Andrea Hartman and I saved the tree. We were decried as “tree huggers,” but were proud to be so dubbed.

On the Morgenthau property across the street from it is a rare helecia, fragrant in spring with white blossoms.

The day before our recent snowstorm, I went out on what I expected to be a brief jaunt just as far as Middle Road. Below the favorite tree of Andrea’s and mine was a paper cup that had been tossed there. As I crossed the street to pick it up I fell on my head. Moments later, I was being helped up by people from a passing car and a Chilmark policeman offered to give me a ride home.

When I got inside and took off my Romanian street cleaner’s flowered babushka, I saw that it was bloodied. It is a souvenir of a long ago visit to Bucharest. I had managed to get its owner to give it to me as a souvenir of her country.

I put my babushka in cold water to get the blood out and called Anna Alley to look at my head. It needed stitches, she said. With the snowstorm promised for the next day, she suggested we should go to the hospital immediately. We did.

Staples, not stitches, were used to close up the three cuts on my head. A CT scan showed I had no concussion. All seemed well until the next day when, from the waist up, I ached. And I had shrunk. No longer could I reach the hooks on the back of my bathroom door, nor my towel racks, nor the lowest shelf where I keep my dishes in the kitchen. At night, I could barely climb up onto my bed. The calico cat that snoozes with me was clearly put out by my tossing and turning and groaning, and my getting up to eat crackers and swallow Ibuprofen to make me comfortable enough to sleep.

I wondered if I had broken ribs in my fall or strained my back stretching for the paper cup. And what had happened to the paper cup, I wondered. Had it been picked up or would it be buried in the snow and then revealed as litter again when all the snow had washed away?

About 10 days after my fall I had the staples pulled from the top of my head. I am told I can wash my hair (if I can reach to the top of the shower to regulate the hot water). When I asked at the hospital why my back and chest were aching I was more or less told a fall like mine would have knocked the stuffing out of my body, too.

A chiropractor eventually found my lost inch, which evidently had disappeared into my left leg when I fell.

When the snow had melted and I felt better, I took a walk. The paper cup was gone. Someone had picked up the trash while I was away.