Hike the Appalachian Trail long enough, and you’re supposed to earn a trail name, something that embodies your spirit. A sense of who you are.
Last year, the boys called me Mother Wolf. I’m not certain if it was a compliment or a warning. I was furious when a set of four men decided to be selfish and uncompassionate and decided that I would never again be quiet because it was nice when others were hurting.
Hence, Mother Wolf was born. Unfortunately, Mother Wolf has a temper which the boys learned as well when I went off on them because they were being loud and a bit obnoxious. I could have kept the rant down to a minute, maybe two. But I just let myself go.
Note, I didn’t cuss.
My hiking partner’s original nickname, though, was not perfect or good for her. My partner is kind and cares for everything. And when I say everything…I really do mean everything. When her husband was driving us to Front Royal for this year’s adventure, she made him stop the car (and go in reverse) so she could carry a turtle across the road.
Most people (myself included) wouldn’t stop. I try not to be heartless. Most times, I see the turtle well after I have passed it and am going at ramshackle speed to my destination because I am late.
But my partner? Without thought, she was out of the car and then running across the two-lane road, carrying a turtle that was rather brave. It didn’t curl into its shell.
No, it sprawled out its legs and made swimming-walking motions as though it was enjoying this three second flight across twenty feet of space. Maybe it thought it was SuperTurtle? It had a shell….does this count as a cape?
My partner’s original nickname was Spider Slayer, given to her because she and I did a hike through seven miles of gorgeous backcountry trails that were covered in spider webs. And the only way we were going to avoid eating every single web was for one of us to wave a five foot stick in front of us like a spastic pendulum (only going up and down, not side to side).
My partner doesn’t kill things. She saves things.
So, this year, the true trail name was given to her. She is the Owl Singer…because she will sing to the owls and they will sing back to her. And I don’t care if you don’t consider hooting to be a song. You come out with me to Pass Mountain hut and listen to this remarkable woman call to the Barred Owls and them call back to her and tell me it’s not singing.
Oh, and if you do try and tell me this isn’t singing…I’m going to deck you. In a nice way. This is the Mother Wolf speaking here…
I’m crazy about compass roses. I love them. As in, my whole life, I have loved them. I love their symmetry. I love the fact that they look like stars. Note, I love stars and the celestial shapes. Astronomy is a passion of mine. I just can’t do the math. I’m an idiot that way.
I love compass roses, though. Love how they point me in the right direction, if I know how to read them correctly.
Which is where the problem lies. I have a horrible sense of direction. I’ll ask my Beloved for directions to some place and he’ll tell me to get off the highway and turn east.
East? What the hell. I don’t have a built in compass and I’m not about to look at the friggin’ sun for an indication about where east is. Just tell me if it’s right or left.
And my Beloved will sigh in exasperation and will tell me right or left. But not after he gives me a scornful look for not knowing which way is east.
East is the direction of new beginnings. East is new life. East is birth. I know where the east is. It is within the nuances of my soul. It is in every step I take when I choose to change, when I choose to look beyond the frustrations that threaten to drown me. It is in every laugh that peals out of my throat. It is the dawn. It is the ocean that upholds me and the dreams that nourish my soul.
Unfortunately, though, my lack of direction nearly steered Owl Singer and I down many wrong roads. The Appalachian Trail is covered in white blazes. Awesome. But they don’t say North and South. They are two/three inch long stripes of paint on trees and rocks. And I love them and will follow them to the day I die (and maybe afterward if God’ll let me). But several times, we nearly followed blazes because I was an idiot and was convinced we were traveling south when we were clearly going north.
I should have checked one of the two compasses I had carbinered to my pack. But that would have been too easy.
I got lost in a campground. In my defense, Big Meadows is a huge campground. Notice that its name is not Little Meadows or Small Meadows or Direct Road Meadows. It’s Big Meadows and has at least four or five loops and I knew that I needed to walk away from the ranger station to find my campsite. I just couldn’t remember which away was the correct away.
On the third day of our trip, Owl Singer and I arrived at Skyland Resort where we rented a cabin and found an oasis known as a shower and a hot meal and a lack of concern for bears. When we came out of the restaurant, we paused and admired the concrete walkway which was decorated with impressions of animal prints. In the center where all the walkways joined, though, was a compass rose.
Lovely, the arrows picked out in a light green, I stood and stared and told Owl Singer that my next tattoo is going to be a compass rose, possibly on my leg. I know that this might be a bit faddish….but well…I don’t care. It’s my leg and it’s my tattoo and it’s my choice and Mother Wolf hath spoken.
Day Four, I got lost in the Big Meadows campground. And when I finally found my way back to our campsite, Owl Singer laughed at me.
I have finally figured out your trail name, she said.
Really? What is it? I asked.
We laughed because I really don’t have a sense of direction. I go the direction my feet point me in and, eventually, I arrive at my destination. I have even been lost while following a GPS. I’m not exaggerating.
I love my trail name. I love the compass rose. I love being the Compass Rose.
Just don’t ask me for directions.