My dining room table is generally covered. Not with decorations. No candlesticks and plate settings. Usually, I have mail, my husband’s tools, some level of paperwork, maybe grading or at least grading related pens. We really don’t eat at the dining room table as often as I would like. I am a terrible mother, you know.
Right now, though, my dining room table is covered with maps, my Swiss Army knife, my spork-knife, clothing, a towel, a first-aid kit, a compass. In six days, my hiking partner and I will be dropped off at the Appalachian Trailhead in Front Royal, Virginia. At the edge of a tiny neighborhood scaling a steep incline that would be impossible to drive when covered in snow and ice, we will get out of the car, shoulder our packs, and start hiking.
Last week, we drove Skyline Drive, another adventure that I need to write about so that I will have a log of my adventures. Last week, we took pictures of bears and deer and panoramic scenes of mountains and sky. Next week, we’ll be immersed in the world of white blazes and a trail that cuts along the spines of mountains that haunt my dreams.
I can not wait.
In the last six months, I have seen the old edges of my old skins trying to creep up the lines of my arms and legs. My fingers have looked old and the dark circles under my eyes grow more and more into shadows that have swallowed light. I am still tired.
I will confess to anxieties that I wish I could shrug away or at least string into a row of rosary beads that I would tuck into my back pocket where they would rest as a reminder, a prayer that I will speak when I feel the pressure. Instead, my nerves impelled me to the gym, to a treadmill that I jacked up in terms of incline and pace and I clung to the support rails and walked and walked and walked until I formed a new blister and my breath came in shallow gasps. Even then, my mind wandered from the upcoming election to the path and I began to wonder which was more frightening.
Bears on television. Bears in the woods. At least I have bear spray.
I have paid the bills and made a reservation for my dog in the kennel. My children will go to the beach with my in-laws and my husband will work or stay at home and enjoy the quiet.
I am so excited about standing on the seams of the world and staring out across valleys spreading in either direction. I look forward to seeing the sun rise and the sun set and knowing that I am in the center of the axis, am the atlas as the galaxy swings over and on to my shoulder. A sash…a constellation of my memories, sixteen adventures that I don’t know that I will have completed but know that I will have completed.
I was planning on counting the Appalachian Trail as one adventure. But in driving the 105 miles of Skyline Drive last week, I know that this is more than just one beaded adventure. This will be a collection of moments that I will tattoo into the palette of my memories.
Six days of last-minute planning, a continual countdown to miles that I will hike and a world that I can’t wait to explore. Six days of looking up vegetarian freezer bag recipes and going over the maps just one more time. Six days of figuring out how to pitch my new tent and use my new water filters. Six days of pre-adventures before I will set one foot in front of the other….