South of the Mason-Dixon.
Hamp on the AT
My favorite part of the AT! Clingman’s Dome
Gap before a climb
Clingman’s Dome in the distance
Overlook, North Carolina
We’re coming to crush you, Smokies.
The beginning of hiking the AT is like the best funeral you’ve ever attended. (That is a phrase my grandmother would love to hear me say.) It’s like the kind of funeral where the attendees openly weep during the service, the music settles in your chest, and afterwards everyone laughs and chats about the deceased with a sense of celebration.
But there can be no doubt that you are grieving. Here we walk in mourning, alone even when we’re with someone else, because our thoughts cannot be turned off or diverted: It’s a continuous stream, sometimes a roar. The other night a read two hundred pages of a book because I couldn’t bear to listen to my own head, and sleep was far from coming.
We grieve for the person we’ve left behind. We walk by a mirror and don’t recognize the body there. The face is burnt and blank, the hair unrecognizable. We couldn’t have explained to ourselves three weeks ago what constant exhaustion meant, or how sometimes the next step is simply impossible - for the moment. We are left alone with ourselves, and have been transformed into the basest of humans. There is no such thing as being a woman here, only being a human that bleeds at inopportune times. We wake up to walk and to eat. Thinking of humans as men or women takes more time than it’s worth. And for that, I grieve my femininity; when a woman walks past and looks lovely, and I shrink into myself, remembering that I am sexless.
We grieve for the time that passes without us, for the idea that we might be forgettable, for the people and parties and words we miss because life goes on in our old worlds without our being there. There are things that we cannot influence or change because we chose to be here, and not there. Particularly, we grieve for the dreams that slip away without us, for the paths that we have closed by choosing this one. We grieve for love we might have lost.
But it is in the walking that we find worth. We have crushed mountains beneath our feet and have chosen to move further way with every step, though comfort comes in knowing that with every step we move closer to home. We are here, trying to decide if we’ve abandoned something, or if something has abandoned us, and feel discomfort not only in our surroundings but also in our souls. Everything is unsettled and dangerous. And that is why we celebrate.
An excerpt from ‘Through Painted Deserts’ by Donald Miller:
"Everybody has to leave. Everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons. […] I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment before because the mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently. […] It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you: Leave. Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful , the way we’ve always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry, everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."
Peace and Blessings,