Fifth Night

On the river bank of the West Branch tonight, about five miles from home. Here at the site that the SOBO hikers at the shelter had noticed on their way up here. A good size spot, not too many roots, with a couple of logs to sit on, right off the trail and here at the river bank.  

Just the kind of spot I was looking for on this last night, this fifth night in the woods I wanted. Yes, plenty of food and breakfast in the morning. Yes, the song of the stream and an extra mile down the trail I wanted to take.

I’ve felt good today, coming off the night on the mountain. A good deal of tears and release on the mountaintop that woke in me joy and lifted my spirits. Steady good hiking today. 

I’ve loved the pace I’ve chosen – ramble pace, wonder pace. Stopping in the woods pace to take it all in.  After days of working at it, I’ve settled into the swing of the trail.  

So glad I did not rush to a finish but took this time. Receiving as I do tonight the memory and gift of the river, the pond, the mountaintop, the trail, the call of the loon.  

I think on the words of release I shared with the congregation last Sunday, the release of the trail this week. Pray for release for Mango obsessing over the what if’s and wherefore’s of a lost love. For Popeye, trying to figure out his future before he’s there.  

After returning from his own hike in the Maine woods, Thoreau asked his Native American guide, Joe Polis, “Are you glad to be home?”  

Polis replied, “It makes no difference to me where I am.”

I like what artist Jennifer Neptune makes of Polis’ reply:

“What if his response means, I’m always home because we belong to this land. It doesn’t belong to us, we are part of it like the salmon and eagles and deer and moose, which makes it all home, which makes us responsible to all these things.”

I left my home of 20 months last week without a permanent address except for the box under Jason’s desk where he’s keeping my mail until I tell him what to do with it. I left a story that ended and heading towards a new one that I cannot yet see. And yet, this week has reminded me that rather than uncertain or afraid, I feel called to this passage, called to the discovery of this interim time. This time in the woods reminding me of a groundedness I feel, an at-homeness I carry in me wherever I go.  

When I return the next morning, Phil asks, “What did you do out there all that time? 

I laugh and have no answer. Tell him of taking time just to stop and listen on the trail and swim in cold ponds. Time to hear the call of the moose and the loon through the rising fog, four hours sitting and watching the light change on the mountaintop.  

“I couldn’t do that,” he says. 

We laugh.

And yes, while I was out hiking 34 miles over 6 days, he’d hiked 32 in 2.  

“How do you come up with your sermons?” the guy at the bar asks me that night. 

“Why, out on the trail,” I say, “And here, in a conversation.” 

“You’d probably end up in a sermon,” I tell him. 

We both laugh.  

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