Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't panic

Bones sinkin like stones all that we fought for. Homes places we've grown, all of us are done for...
We live in a beautiful world, yea we do, yea we do.


Last week I spent 3 out of 6 days walking a path you call the Appalachian Trail. That is its official name, sure, but I'm beginning to wonder if that is a sort of- scientific name. Perhaps the A.T is its common name. But even still, some of us have nicknames for objects we are intimate with, animals, people. Our names for these things surpass science and common, these names stem out of the intimate fondness, affection, reverence, humbleness, and sometimes anger, otherwise known as love. I am not sure what to refer to this path as anymore. It has become something bigger and more profound than I can conceive.

Day 1. Bethany agreed to hike MacAfee's Knob on a freakishly warm afternoon. She is not much of a hiker, but nonetheless crawled into my car wearing a tank top and yoga pants, purse, bag, water, and Georgia Tech long sleeve T in tow. Heidi and Geronimo tagged along too. We laughed and meandered down the fire road, then the AT. Bethany has been my friend, occasionally enemy, since 2nd grade. We talk about boys, jobs, family, dreams. We say ridiculous freakish things that we would censor in other company. I am so happy to have her in this, my world, of sorts. We break under a power line to let a young glowing couple pass us, and a trail runner with his backpack wearing - tail uncropped- larger than Geronimo weimaraner. It is a short hike (for me, probably endless for her), but we snack on OCPs (oatmeal cream pies) hummus, crackers, cheese, like I'm in the middle of a 15-20 mile day. The dogs get jumbo chewy snack bones. We rise refreshed, and walk the last hardest bit, weaving through huge boulders to the much photographed, always beautiful overlook. By now what started as a 60 degree day has turned windy, damp, with temperatures dropping. We anticipate looming grey clouds working thru the Catawba Valley towards us. I put on my hooded softshell Santa brought that I have become (in true gear junkie style) smitten with. I loan her my mittens and hat. We descend faster. I have been nervous it may rain. I had decided to defy it, defy that fear, venture outside anyway. The fear of weather ; understandable, irrational, a helpless fear. Well. Our final half of the fire road was in snow. Perfect beautiful huge flaky snow. Cold and wind burnt there was nothing to do but smile and laugh - FINALLY.

Day 2. I went to my pre AT home, Allendale, to pick up my black and white photographs from the "Star City Project" . These images were part of the FIRST public showing of my photography, an entire coffee shop with about 20 some matted framed prints - beautiful. Anyway there's another gallery I'm trying to get them into and needed to pick them up from my friend and neighbor (I stashed them in her place instead of storing them before leaving to hike). So I carefully wrapped the frames in blankets, put them in a box, and stayed for hours talking to Sheri and my old landlord. Two guys moved into my apartment last week. Geronimo tried to go in, as if to think, HEY we're home finally!!! Part me thought that too, but I didn't press for the opportunity to walk/look around. "Leave it" I thought, "let it be". So eventually Mo and I left, I wanted to take the long way back to my parents. I drove through Salem to park and walk the ridge south of the 311 parking lot. We just went to the first overlook. It was getting late, Ben (my brother) was on his way home for the weekend, and really I just went to wonder. I let my mind and heart wonder. wander. I asked big questions. Studied this landscape. The drive was soaked in warm red winter sunset light. I rolled the windows down.

Day 3. I woke up KNOWING this would be my day to climb Dragon's Tooth. I put a roll of infrared film (that I bought in Missoula in college) in my 35mm camera just before New Year's. I started that roll on the Tinker Cliffs, shot it at MAK, and really wanted to triple crown it, with DT (the three popular highlights of the Appalachian Trail in this area). It was another beautiful sunny day, and despite it being a Saturday, and my loathing of how crowded it might be, I knew TODAY must be the day. I pestered my family. Hopped in my brother's bed to wake him up, get him in on the adventure. He's a big climber and (because of me and Alta Mons) loves the woods. I thought, YEAH how could he NOT come to Dragon's Tooth?! He had safer, more ordinary plans with Dad though - haircut- golf. He said no. Dad was also busy being ordinary, and turns out my Mom was busy keeping things in order on her one day off from a job and church. I threw a bit of a depressed rejected tantrum, took a breath, put myself together, grabbed Mo's jacket and hit the road. I can't explain this hike to you. This hike was intimate and personal. I continued my questions from Day 2, I reverted to my thru hike mode, quick steady methodical movement. Heart. Body. Feet. Dirt. Sky. Water. Pulse. I must have passed 20 people in the hour it took to get to the top. Once there I slipped my climbing shoes on and played around. I finished my roll of film. I read scripture. I sat upright, on the rock pinnacle, noticing the southern valley for the first time. A quiet calm anxious wisdom came, and I knew something would happen. It did. But instead of being rattled, spiraling out of control, and falling apart like I might've predicted I simply photographed more, wrapped up the walk, slipped into flip flops, and drove to the library to get Eat Pray Love on CD (I've been meaning to read that!). My family met at the Homeplace for my sister's birthday dinner. I scarfed down food, but remained mostly quiet.

These experiences have served as a catalyst of further prayer and mediation. I have a hopeful excited faith this week will bring a directional answer as to where MY path will lead the next months.

I've heard if you take a domestic pig and drop it in the woods it only takes a matter of weeks for it to return to a primal feral state. Pretty impressive I think, but I have noticed my threshold of "how long can you be outside before you become wild again" is dramatically shorter. Moments. It only takes me moments of a breeze on my face, into my nostrils, before it is permeating back through my pores; wild. Is it because I am that or want that? Is it because beauty reflects and attracts beauty? Is it possible that this landscape and natural world is so grand and overpowering that it transforms me?

Lastly, I was late to church so I decided to do something different, take this spirituality and make it personal. I sat alone in a quiet dark room where I could hear the worship but see nothing. The hymns were about grace and spirit. The sermon was about what to do when our bubble bursts. The preacher talked about this looming- dare we say- depression the US is spiraling into. My practical side was annoyed with contempt to be job searching in the worst economy of my life. But my dreaming side - was excited. For the same reason my friend Low was excited about a devastating New England ice storm. Something you may not agree with, that I can only explain as - out of deep tragedy, hopelessness, poverty, disillusionment, and darkness something pure simple and real arises. Something that I have learned is the essence of what to strive for during our time on this planet. My time on the AT echoes these principles, but that was chosen. Many people will never CHOOSE to live a life like this. But as it turns out- something else may have chosen for us. Because nation-wide economic depression seems to be settling in, just like a New England ice storm. The sermon continued until this preacher said something -

Bound together we can survive.



everybody here's got somebody to lean on


just like Coldplay said...

2 comments:

Linda Lee said...

Hey "PenMar AT Girl" (my nickname for you),

Just letting you I am still checking on you (at least weekly).

Happy Valentines!
Love,
Linda Lee

Mr. Bones said...

Bound! So good to hear from you. It's Mr. Bones and Stubbs, otherwise known as Joe and Melissa Wisley. We were indeed checking in @ the hostel with MudBug and crew when you were leaving. I can't believe we missed you. Drop us a line sometime and let us know what you are up to these days. Mel and I are expecting our first child in August and in the process of training our new black lab, Maximus. My email address is joe.wisley@rainbowcamp.org and Mel's is melijoywisley@juno.com. She also has her own website for personal trainer (her profession) @ www.myhitechtrainer.com/bodybymel

Looking forward to staying in touch. Take care.

Joe and Melissa