Just over a week ago, October 3, I stepped out from the home that had been into the discovery of what might yet be. Set out to do something I’d never done before – to take a week hiking and camping alone on the Appalachian Trail. Now, a week back from the trail, my story of what happened.

Monson is the place up the road. That place in the North Woods at the end of the road where the pavement turns to dirt.  That place where you’re headed after leaving what had been your home.  

The kind of place where people say, “Monson?…What’s that?… Where?… Why?…”  Only one “uh-huh” of recognition from a local who’d been there.

Monson was where I headed on that Sunday afternoon after the final service, after the cake.  The place I was headed like I told people I would, the place that gave an answer to their question, “What’s next?”  

I’m heading to Monson.

Monson, a crossroads, a supply town just off the trail. The place between this way or that.  

Early that morning, at last had stopped. Done with the final sorting and packing. Done with checking behind the door and under the bed to see what I might have left.  Done with all of it but to stop and sit for a cup of coffee and found the tears that had been eluding me for months. 

These tears as they came and come again now in remembering that I don’t understand. Not the wrenching tears of loss, not the quiet tears of grace, but the full and flowing tears of leaving a people and a place that you have loved because the time has come, your work complete, our time together at a close.  It’s not that its unexpected, you’ve been working towards this since you came.  But then its here and amidst all that was done and all left undone, is just this love, the love in these tears for this place and these people, the love I have shared and the love I so richly received and how it all and grown and changed me, dislocated me from who I was to what I might yet be, as these tears are doing now.  

The gift of grace, after that final service, after the final words of thank you, forgiveness and release.  After passing on the church keys that had been entrusted to me 20 months before, the snow shovel and ice scraper that you need to be a minister in Maine.  The gift of the grace of tears in the masked hugs and handshakes, all the words already spoken and all that is left, these tears of love.  

Tom slipped me a note as he said goodbye, “You are going in the right direction.  God is with you. You will not be led astray. Just be you.  You can’t go wrong.”

And so, I take that last trip up 27 North heading to Monson. A slice of cake by my side.

Stop along the way to take it all in. The abandoned old church, the little table of squash, the colors that cry out at the side of the road. It is all so beautiful.  

Text Phil that I’ll be arriving by 4.  Receive a text back, “Who is this from?  Not expecting anyone.  I’m sorry but I’m closed for the season.  You’ll need to find someplace else.”

I’m surprised and rather awed that I do not panic.  Don’t beat up on myself for not confirming the reservation I thought I’d made, not mad at him. Curious instead as these past months have taught me to be instead, wondering where I can camp for the night and find a bite to eat. Learned these past 20 months that things not going according to plan is the way of things these days. 

Then, on my way to another plan, another text,   “Go ahead and make yourself at home. You’re all set with me.  No worries.  See you in the morning.”  

So tonight, here, these stars, so bright!  Home found where I didn’t think I’d have one.  

Phil will drive me to Caratunk tomorrow and I’ll spend the week following the trail back to Monson, that place where you’re headed after the life you had ended. That place that finds you, the home you never expected to find, at the end of the road.

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