It felt like yesterday was never going to happen. And then that yesterday was never going to end. Last week, Pat and I planned another AT training hike; only this time, we weren’t going to hike on the actual AT. Instead, we were going to hit a four mile (one way) hike that would take us from the trailhead (towards the mountain’s top) down into the valley. The trail would parallel a waterfall that is absolutely amazing and wonderful and beautiful.
I swear, though, that nothing was going to go according to time, yesterday. We barely left on time. We were supposed to get gas and vacuum out the car but we needed more chips for lunch filler and Pat forgot his debit card. So, I get the food, we go back to the house, and the car doesn’t get vacuumed. Oh well.
We pick up the extra Boy Scout, Marshall, who was joining us to also train for the AT hike and drive off to our trailhead.
Everything seemed to go well. Until Pat wanted to check the air pressure in a tire. More waiting. Only the machine was broken. No more waiting.
Eventually, we made it to the trailhead, roughly 30 minutes after the time we had originally thought we were going to arrive. Regardless, we were there. New problem: huge thunder storms were making their way towards our hiking trail. So we didn’t exactly have time to dawdle and play which was one of the things we used to sell our kids and Marshall on going on this hike.
But as we traversed the trail, went through switchback after switchback, and flopped down rock-steps that left all of our knees aching, we eventually made it to a point where we realized we really couldn’t go further. Could we have gone lower to the point where the trail dead-ended and we were at the base of the falls? Sure. However, in talking to a couple other hikers, we realized the storm was supposed to arrive a bit earlier than we were expecting and, by this point, we were a solid three and a half miles (down) from the car which was nothing more than a lovely three and a half mile trek…up.
But Pat and I are not exactly conventional. We believe in being environmentally friendly. We believe in not leaving “a trace.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can’t enjoy ourselves. And one thing I try to do is not be my mother. As much as I love her (comma but), I want to be less terrified of everything that lurks around the world and could pose a possible threat or danger to my family or me.
We climbed rocks, stood on ledges that made my stomach drop and my blood run cold. Once, I had to turn away and stop watching my beloved children as they approached the edge of a precipice that would have resulted in their immediate deaths if they fell. I have to admit, I finally understood my mother’s fears. She always said that she could envision my brother’s and my deaths when we did something similar. I shouldn’t have channeled my inner-mother. I heard her voice saying that exact sentence to me. I started doing the same thing. Wasn’t good. I didn’t say anything to my kids. I confessed my anxiety to my husband. I ended up praying non-stop.
The kids are fine. Obviously.
So, before we were ready, we turned back. Only, this time, we weren’t about to take the path. The last time Pat and I had been at this trail, we were celebrating our anniversary. We had hiked down the trail, marveled at the beauty of the falls, and then, on a whim, instead of following the trail, we started climbing the rocks that bordered and followed the water.
This was right after Pat had given me the anniversary gift of a replacement “engagement ring” because the stone kept on popping out of my original ring. I loved my new ring because, as we climbed, I wasn’t paranoid about losing the stone. I didn’t care about any possible scratches on the ring, figuring that any dents and scratches could be part of the story of my new ring.
We climbed. Together, we charted our way through the rocks and boulders, across fallen log bridges, and along the edges of a primitive world that we loved together.
Now, twelve years later, we returned to this wonderful world with our two children and one of their friends. And we stood, once more, at the falls and dipped our hands into the cold water and luxuriated in the shocking cold that was the perfect counterpoint to the heat and humidity of the day.
Yesterday, to race the storm but also to give our children (and Marshall) a break from a paved trail, we scouted our own trail. Robert Frost would have loved how we took our own path which “made all the difference.” At times, each person took his own path as we found our own routes over boulders or past wet-moss covered rocks that were more treacherous than the most slippery ice. By the way….I fell. Once on my bum. I looked like I had lost my bladder on myself.
And I didn’t care. Except for the huge bruise that makes sitting painful.
And I still don’t care.
Because I have another massive bruise that looks like an incision on my right knee. Only this one is from where I lost my nerve while climbing a boulder and I realized I didn’t really have the strength or balance to complete the climb and I had to get Pat to help me.
And he did. He stayed there and waited for me and held my trembling hands and pulled me up and over the rock so that I could find my firm footing and regain my dignity and balance before forging ahead.
This is our marriage. An un-choreographed dance that is constantly shifting in its rhythms and its styles and its movements as we adjust to one or the other. But we are still united. After twenty years together, we are not losing sight of one another. No, we are holding tightly to each other’s hands and helping the other over the next obstacle.
I said that last summer was the best in my life. I was wrong. Because, in the last two weeks, I have experienced more peace and contentment which are indicators of a joyful, fulfilling experience, than I did last year.
And I have eight more weeks. Eight more glorious weeks. One of which will be spent in New York City with my incredible children and mother-in-law. And another on the Appalachian Trail with my beloved.
Poem of the day:
Riding Home in the Storm
By the time the first fat drops of rain landed on the windshield,
We were supposed to be home, ensconced in our pajamas,
Maybe even sipping a beer.
Instead, we were just getting off the mountain that was two
Hours from our beds and nowhere close to where we supposed to be.
Our bellies were distended from a perfect sit-down dinner and
Not the drive-through processed meal you wanted us to eat on
The way home.
Too many hours spent at a table.
Too many minutes spent in a gift shop where we didn’t buy anything.
Three heads were askew, balanced against the windows
As the children slept.
I wanted to join them. Close my eyes and fall unconscious,
Stop feeling the aches and pains of bruises and abused muscles.
But then the lightning unzipped the sky and
Thunder poured out from the heavens
And the rain fell.
An Earth already saturated with water rejected the offering
And the rain collected into puddles that grew into miniature lakes
That sat on the edges of the road until you drove through them
And the tires were a temporary Moses splitting the seas.
Oh, I wanted to sleep.
But fatigue was replaced by numbing fear which grew to
Moments of terror when the black road was replaced
With liquid-red-clay and the pretty, symmetrical lines
Drowned beneath the summer storm.
You don’t believe.
But I cast my cares and my worries and my fears before the Lord
And begged for guidance, for divine intervention, for a guiding
Hand that will keep the car on a road that had disappeared
And for windshield wipers that would
Finally clear the water enough so we could see beyond the
Edge of the hood.
We were supposed to be on the road for two hours.
It took us nearly four.
And in that time, I watched the trees get stripped of their leaves
And the memories of a beautiful day become fragments in my mind.