Thursday, September 29: Legion
Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
The hurricane hit south of Sarasota in the Fort Meyers area. Pat’s husband is already back checking on things at the house. A beloved big tree in the front yard fell during the storm but there’s little damage other than that. They came out of this storm okay. Such good news here at the crossroads of 25A. We share a big hug.
And while there is the joy of Pat’s family and home escaping tragedy, there is also the awareness that this joy means someone else’s sorrow and loss. What about the people on Sanibel Island?
It won’t be until later in the week, after we’ve both returned home, that we’ll see the destruction and learn of the number of people who died in the storm. Hurricane Ian was one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall on the west coast of the Florida peninsula. Over 114 Floridians died, more deaths than any hurricane in almost 90 years. Most of the victims were older adults. Two-thirds of them were 60 or over and 30 were past their 80th birthdays.
Sometimes a storm turns the town into a wilderness and we meet each other in our vulnerability like we do in the woods. We realize we can’t do it alone and turn to help each other. But of course it always doesn’t turn out that way and not for everyone. There are always the Drews who we don’t know what to do with.
I think about all the Drews who had no place to go in the storm except for the emergency shelter where as Pat says no one wants to go. I think of the Drews who don’t have friends to invite them to stay with them. I think of the Drews that were walked by.
I don’t know what I would do if I met Drew in town with no where to go in the storm. Would I invite him to come in and stay with me? I’m from town. Shaped by the values, fears, considerations of town, of caution and safety. Perhaps I’d too turn away in the storm, thinking its best just to watch out for myself and my own. Thinking someone else will come along to take him in.
Today, I want to be present to the ways of the woods, to let the beauty and vulnerability I find here work in me. I pray for the people in Florida and others recovering from the storm. For those in the midst of storms today. For the pouring grace of the sound of the river.
This morning at breakfast I share that tonight we have another choice as well. We could camp as we planned at Jeffers Brook at the base of Moosilauke or Dad reminded me there is a hostel just down the road at Glencliff where we could stay as well. I remind Pat that the temperatures are dropping tonight and we could leave our heavy gear there and come back to pick it up after our climb up the mountain.
Pat is ecstatic by the hostel option. I never would have thought of that! she exclaims. She is used to pushing through, doing the hard and does it well. But a warm place on what promises to be a cold night sounds delicious.
At the crossroads, a second piece of good news – the hostel has room for us tonight!
It’s a beautiful trail up and down these little hills on smooth dirt trails. Misty Mountain draped appropriately in morning mist. Sometimes I go on ahead, wait for Pat at the top. Sometimes we chat along together. But on the final descent to Route 25, I trudge on weary, so tired, so very tired coming down to the road that feels like it will never come.
Nothing about today was hard – no big ascents or descents but for some reason I’m bone and body weary. I can’t seem to catch up with enough bars and snacks to revive me. It feels to me like “Buck Hill” did last year. It was our final three miles of the 100 mile wilderness trek and coming down that little hill I grew slower and slower, weariness overtaking me at every step.
Pat tells me all the way down the trail about the wonderful hosts and beautiful hostels where she has stayed.
It’s a half mile down the road to the hostel – a ragged, weary house on the left side and a young man with long brown hair and a scraggly beard sitting on the front stoop.
Are you the caretaker? We have a reservation to spend the night!
I guess I’m as close to that as you’ll get, he says, then steps inside and closes the door.
We go in the side door to the hostel entrance. The man on the stoop is nowhere in sight. What we do see is a worn, rather dingy room with stacks of assorted hiking equipment in the corner, an old refrigerator and microwave, a table with a piece of paper to register that we can’t read. Wherever the photocopy machine is around here, it needs some new toner. In fact, this whole place could use a tune-up.
Upstairs, six sets of bunk beds, a few dirty socks on the floor, a rug that’s long overdue to be vacuumed.
What do we think? It’s nothing like those beautiful hostels that Pat has stayed at before. The reviews on Pat’s hiking app says there could be mice upstairs….
And it is going to be cold tonight and the idea of being warm and stashing our stuff here while we do our climb feels too good to pass up. Besides, we are both exhausted.
When the man on the stoop does not appear, we knock on the door that says, “Office.” A shuffle of steps, the man opens the door part-way, What’s up?
How do we pay? We want to leave early. Will you be up then? Can we leave our stuff here? Can we come back tomorrow and get it after our hike?
He looks at us through the doorway clearly amused at all our questions, our desire to do all things right.
Yeah, you can leave your stuff here. Pay up in the morning, we’ve found it easier that way.
And closes the door.
We turn to dropping our packs and devouring pizza, coke, ice cream sandwiches. Definitely a good idea to pay up in the morning.
As I’m coming back from the outdoor shower, another long haired bearded man appears around the corner of the building named Legion.
Last Sunday at church we’d read the story about Legion or “The Gerasene Demoniac” (Mark 5:1-20) who lives in the tombs on the far side of the Sea of Galilee. A tormented soul who breaks the fetters and chains the townspeople have bound him in…He was always crying out, bruising himself with stones.
How did you get your name?
I have the scripture tattooed on my arm.
This is too amazing.
Jesus didn’t heal Legion.Instead, he helped him see what his real problems were and what were not real problems.
The Legion in front of me has had his share of problems. He studied Philosophy in college which didn’t land him a job and so he went on to study recording on tapes which was outdated and obsolete a year after he started. He struggled to find work and life in the rat race so he stepped out and made a life to call his own. He works with a carpenter in the winter which is murder on his back and here in the summer which is murder on his nerves. But he loves the trail and loves being close to it and able to step out on it for a week-long trek across the Whites once a year.
He offers to drive us to town if we need to pick up anything. I say the one thing I might need is snacks – I’m running low.
We have a stash here I can show you.
I’m ecstatic. Cliff Bars and Peanut Butter crackers, nuts and candy bars. I’m set for tomorrow!
He pulls up his pant leg to show us a tattooed map of the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails. He’s done them all – several times. His leg, one of the most “liked” legs on Instagram.
I was hiking one day and some guy behind me called out “Legion”! He recognized me by my leg.
In the Gospel story, after Jesus drove the demons out of Legion into a herd of pigs, Legion sat clothed and in his right mind by Jesus’ side. The townspeople were terrified when they say him.
I must return and ask Legion someday why he thinks they were afraid.
Perhaps, I think, because we are often wary of someone who is free, who has seen through the “problems” that define and confine our lives, and finds Life here where it is.