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One of the great things about hiking for more than a couple weeks is the very tangible sense of
civilization's filters dissapating with each day, and sometimes each step. All the busyness and rush rush
recedes and a sense of presence, unbounded by past or future, emerges. For me this was a wholeness of
feeling that allowed me to make sense of my life.
These were moments usually, sometimes long moments, but moments nonetheless. Without the busyness filters
my emotions raged, up and down, from tears and the overwhelming realization I wasn't having fun, longing
for the trip to be over, to utter ecstatic highs during which I wasn't even aware of walking.
The sense of presence in which all made sense ebbed and flowed with my emotions. It came and went. I made
sense of what I was doing when I felt this calm, this sense of compassion for myself and the very precious
and fragile life I was leading. I'd fall off this center into an emotion, ride the roller coaster in
whatever direction it was going, only to find myself again a minute, hour or day later.
There was a whole continuum of goals left over from my "busy-ness" life in civilization, from planning the
trip; the goal to finish hiking Oregon and Washington, the goal to pare my pack's weight, to start walking
before the sun came up, to find a stream for a three hour break at mid-day, to eat dinner on the trail and
camp at the top of a ridge, to make the top of the ridge when tired, thirsty, hot and hungry.
I felt all these goals as extensions of another life making its presence felt. It was hard to let go of
them, to ride the emotions letting go entailed, to ride them without "doing" anything about them, to find
the center once again. Far easier to jerk myself out of my sleeping bag and time how long it took me to
pack up, shit and hit the trail, to get 15 miles in by noon, to agonize whether to stop at 4 or hike til
7. All the decisions and emotions around them narrowed and shortened my view of my life, and I'd realize
what was happening and my heart would hurt immeasurably. And that too would pass, sometimes with tears,
sometimes with a tricky creek crossing, sometimes with a breath-taking vista, other times with a drink of
I don't think we are taught how to live well in the world of busyness, to find our own centers and act from
there. Long distance hiking creates the possibility to do this. Long distance hiking alone makes it
almost imperative. To be alone is probably the most feared and difficult thing we humans can do. Perhaps
from within the center what we perceive from without as fearful eventually reveals itself to be the way
things are anyway...
Just some thoughts...
Laramie, Wyoming, where Spring is just beginning...