Touching Peace and Finding Contentment

I didn’t train for the Appalachian Trail last summer.  I could blame the fact that I pretty much quit halfway through my hundred mile odyssey on a lack of bear boxes.  But, let’s be real.  I wasn’t ready.

I will not unfurl the tissue paper memories of last summer.  It wasn’t a bad summer.  I had a lovely time in New York City.  I loved being on the trail.

But I had some hard times last summer and those times are mine and mine alone.  I understand the nature of those hard times and am merely acknowledging their existence.  I know what happened.  I know how it happened.  And I know how to keep it from happening.  Done.

And, no, it really wasn’t anything huge.  But I am a bit embarrassed so…let’s just not dig our hands into those tissue paper memories, okay?

But this summer?  Hell yeah I’m going strong.

Since last Monday, six days ago, I have walked 70 miles.

Yup.  70.

Seven Zero.

I have already walked over two thirds of my target hike.

Now, I know that hiking and walking are very different.  And I have done those miles with eight to ten pounds of water with me (I am a very thirsty person.  Don’t know why, and, no, it’s not diabetes.  It’s my throat and the fact that it always feels dry).   

But going through the forest with my dog, Leia, and listening to bird song, to the loud rustling of squirrels gamboling through the leaves, the memories of last summer just kind of fall away.

Today, I stared at my shadow for a moment.  Although I can wear my hair in a man-bun (I had cut off most of my hair two years ago and been growing it out only the last eighteen months), I had duck curl-antennae peeking out from behind each of my ears, giving me the appearance of horns (just not top-of-the-head-Devil-horns).

I look like a big walking block with horns.  And given the way I lumber along gravel paths, I’m fairly comfortable with who I am, what I am.

And it’s taken me so long to arrive at this moment.

In my walks, I have been replotting my novel.  The only problem with the walks is that by the time I arrive home, I am generally so weary that the idea of writing is almost laughable.  But I’m going to devote some time to it today.  I will compose at least a thousand words tonight, even if they terrible and will be given to the delete pile later.

I have constructed lesson plans on the paths.

I have found my peace on the paths.

I have also found my broken temper on the paths when people who have no control over their dogs let their dogs run around off leash and then shout to their uncontrollable dogs while I’m hovering over Leia, trying to teach her trail manners.

But that is another blog for another day.  Trust me.  That one will be rather sarcastic….

Leia loves the walks.  She does not love the biting flies that like to land on her ears and gnaw through the skin and devour her blood.  She does not love the ticks that freckle her legs and stomach.

But she loves jogging through the grass, her tail high and lightly waving.   She loves the creek where she swims every time we pause at the low-lying concrete bridge (we stop there at least two to three times per walk).  She loves being fed at least half of my peanut butter sandwiches and the orange slices I carry with us.

She loves it when I slightly lean over and run my fingers along the top of her head, rub her ears, or tap her on the back.  She looks back at me, shifts over towards my legs, and leans on me as she walks.  Sometimes, she’ll nibble on my fingertips which I know I’m not supposed to encourage, but it seems like she’s telling me that she understands, that she knows that in our long walks, we are….

I don’t know….

We just are.

I have been on summer vacation, officially, for less than one week.  And yet in the last six days, I have felt like I have lived purely, which I can’t quantify but feel as though this is an utter truth.

It’s not that teaching is an impure existence.    But it is a world in which I live my life by question marks and half-bred statements.  Whether excavating students’ meanings or trying to find out what lesson worked well or what lesson bombed or whether or not to repeat teaching a certain novel or just trying to understand….I live in the curlicued textures of uncertainty.

And yet, today, after a gloriously long eleven miles that were a bit hard today (my feet were in serious rebellion), I came home and turned on Facebook.  Read some posts.  Liked and loved some posts.  And then I found Lucas.

Who might be dealing with his own tissue paper moments.  He wrote something.  I told him that I cared and hoped that he would be well.

I did some work.   By the way, teachers actually do work over summer vacation.  So far, I have donated at least six hours of my summer vacation to lesson planning.  And that doesn’t include the hours of reading I have been doing.  Or the mental planning done every day on the paths.

But that is another blog post for another day.

Several hours after writing a note to Lucas, I returned to Facebook and found where he had written to me.  Had written something beautiful about me.

I don’t deserve such kindness, such compassion.  Lucas needed to know that he is loved.  And I told him that I genuinely care about him because he is a delightful, wonderful person.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

And to read this long post in which he characterizes me…well….I just feel weird about giving more details here because…well…what if I haven’t truly earned it?

And, most of all, I don’t want to find a pedestal and stand on it. I don’t have very good balance and usually when  I climb on a sense of achievement is when I am about to take a very good tumble.

I am honored.  I am humbled.  I am thankful and grateful for such kind words that I may or may not have earned or deserved.

What I will say is that goodness is everywhere.  Yes, darkness and cruelty and evil are everywhere as well.  I just watched the news about people who were terribly hurt in a gas truck explosion.  I just saw the news about corruption.

But, I still believe in the truth that was written by St. Francis of Assisi, “All the darkness in the world can not extinguish the light of a single candle.”

My post about Horace was weak.  He is the candle that no darkness will consume.

I hope that he knows just how much I admire, respect, and honor him.

And now, Lucas, is the bearer of the light.  He, too, must know that he can never be destroyed by the darkness.  Because people like Lucas remind me of my own little firefly light hidden deep within me.

This little light of mine….I’m going to let it shine…..

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