I’ve spent this week trying to put my stuff away. You know what I mean: the stuff we leave stacked over there across the room, and the plumbing connections piled in the garage we didn’t get back to yet, and the books that want to be re-shelved, and the pile of mail that aren’t bills but ought to be kept track of, and the tail ends of so many projects that just won’t stay completed.
Why am I doing this? Because I am leaving this weekend and I might be gone as long as six weeks.
I haven’t disconnected from everyday life for so long since the three summers I traveled with Continental Singers. But that was forty years ago and I didn’t have much to disconnect from.
I also haven’t been away from Cyndi for so long. We spent two weeks apart in 1980 when I attended a Halliburton school in Duncan, OK. She and our two-month-old son went to northern New Mexico while I was gone, so she could study china painting with her grandmother. And then the next summer we were apart for three weeks when Cyndi attended a summer class for Texas Tech at a camp near Enchanted Rock, Texas. In the last 36 years we haven’t been apart more than a week at a time.
Separation from Cyndi is the most traumatic part of my summer adventure in Colorado, and the part I can least prepare for. Missing her doesn’t fit onto any of my maps or spreadsheets, although I suspect it’ll find its way into my journal.
Fortunately, being apart nowadays is easier that it was in 1981 since we can phone and email and text. Disconnecting doesn’t feel so permanent. Also, even though I’ll be in the high-country of central Colorado, it isn’t like being around the world when we sent our daughter Katie to Denmark for an entire year.
Six weeks apart is a long time. That’s the reason I’ve never seriously considered hiking one of the longer trails, like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. I don’t mind being by myself, I actually look forward to solitude, but I like hanging out with Cyndi even more.
Who will I share my jokes with? The other hikers on the trail won’t be interested in hearing the song lyrics I woke up singing in my head the same way Cyndi does. They won’t make fun of me the same way Cyndi does, the way that makes me feel known and accepted. They won’t give me that look – you know the one - when I try to put in too many miles or push through an injury. They won’t encourage me to keep working through wild ideas or listen to me ramble on and on and on about a clever podcast I heard.
So why am I leaving? Good question. I’ll admit this hike is very much a selfish following of my long-held dream. It’s a goal that’s important only to me.
Knowing why is usually harder than actually doing. The real reasons why we do things typically surface only part-way through the project, or many months after finishing.
For me, this is not a “finding God in nature” story, but a “finding God on the trail” story. The process, the progression, the evolution, is as important as the location. I don’t expect a blissful walk in the woods. I expect it to be hard and risky and unpredictable. It’s the unknown of it that draws me in.
While preparing for this trip I’ve read many accounts written by through-hikers, and unlike a lot of them I’m not hiking to escape the overwhelming pressures of my daily world, or settle grief, or fight addiction, or even to simplify my life. I’m doing it because epic adventure stories stir my heart, and I want to see what happens when I’m the one doing it. Also, it sounds fun.
So if you see Cyndi while I’m gone, please help fill the vacancy I’m leaving by offering to replace some light bulbs, or unscrewing jar lids, or carrying out the trash. That’s mostly what I do around the house; Cyndi does all the rest.
P.S. Cyndi told me she wasn’t really worried that I would be attacked by wild animals. “But,” she said, “If you were, except for the two minutes of terror, I would know you died doing what you love.” How can I not love a woman who cares so much as all that? I’ll hike as quickly as possible to get back home to her.
P.S. P.S. follow my hike on Facebook at the page, Colorado Trail 2017.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32