“I just have a sense — ” said Ellen, putting on her gloves.
“You think so?” said Carol, adjusting her scarf.
A Clinton sighting was hardly unlikely. She and her husband were Chappaqua neighbors who enjoyed an invigorating, mind-clearing tromp in the local nature preserve as much as anyone else. And now, of course, she was back in town. Ellen had already seen her in the woods twice since she lost the presidency, and she wasn’t the only one. Two days after the election, a young woman had spotted Clinton and taken a photo with her that went viral, leading to fake news stories alleging that the whole thing was staged, which was said to prove once again that Hillary Clinton couldn’t do anything that did not strike a false note. But Chappaquaians knew better.
“Of Course Hillary Clinton Was Hiking The Day After She Lost the Election You F—–g Dumba–es,” wrote one Chappaqua native blogging in defense of the young woman in the photo, who had received hate mail afterward, which was why Ellen and others did not want their full names made public. “It’s not uncommon to run into the Clintons in the nature preserves, or even on the road.”
In fact, photos had been popping up all over in recent weeks showing a makeup-free Clinton smiling with strangers in the pines, so many that “Saturday Night Live” did a skit called “The Hunt for Hil,” in which two investigators head off into the woods to “find her, trap her, and thank her” with the help of a forest shaman. Others scrutinizing the photos noted that in one, Clinton appeared to be wearing the same blue-patterned Patagonia fleece she had been photographed wearing in outings for 20 years, spawning jokes that her fleece had more experience than Donald Trump, and comments about how regular she seemed, how human.
It was like Al Gore growing a beard after his 2000 election loss. Or George W. Bush painting self-portraits after leaving office. It was Hillary Clinton in the woods: not a candidate running, but a person walking, and probably also talking, as Ellen and Carol were doing now, two lawyers heading along a grassy path into the 44-acre preserve.
“I read this article by Michael Kinsley — he was saying Donald Trump is a fascist, but not in the usual sense,” Ellen began, and as they walked along, the words “corporate statism” and “Tillerson” and “democracy” drifted up into the maples and pines.
They huffed up a rocky hill and walked along a ridge. They eased down into a clearing by a half-frozen stream, which was where, two days after the election, Ellen had been walking her yellow lab Phoebe, distraught over the results and saying to herself, “If I see her, I see her” when she actually saw her, in the woods: Hillary Clinton coming around a bend.
“Bill was in front,” Ellen said. “And then here came Hillary with her poodle and then the agents. And I’m here, and then we were together, and I just said, ‘What happened?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know. I have no idea.’ And I said, ‘I really admire you. You look great. You’re wonderful.’ I stood there with my arms wide open and I’m not even a hugger and I gave her this big hug. She had on a beautiful sweater. She asked my dog’s name.”
A couple weeks later, Ellen, who calls herself “the Sacagawea of the Arboretum,” let Phoebe off her leash. The dog was bounding ahead full speed when she started barking, and then Hillary and Bill Clinton appeared again, this time with their daughter, Chelsea, Chelsea’s husband and their children. It was the day after Thanksgiving and soon, other hikers were popping out of the woods”