Crossing the Potomac Threshold

 “I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.” – Simone Biles

malchus stafa, b. Loading up the bear vault. Mar. 2023. Author’s personal collection.

Hero’s journey: Meeting the threshold guardian or obstacles.

Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on the twelve steps of the hero’s journey.  In step four: crossing the threshold, the hero, in our case Mr. Rook and I are ready to cross onto the Appalachian Trail (AT).  We are excited to leave the “ordinary world” where we have hot showers and flushing toilets; we know when our favorite coffee shops are open; and where the bakeries are located… to travel into the unknown.  We aren’t fools to romanticize the trail.  It is our expectation that we will learn a lot, cry a lot, pray a lot, and hopefully laugh a lot on the trail.  We are aware that ideas and ways of doing things in the “ordinary world” might not work on the AT.  

Before reaching step four, Campbell writes that the hero meets guardians who are there to make sure the hero is mentally ready for the adventure.  We haven’t met any real life or spiritual “guardians” per se.  Instead Mr. Rook and I have met obstacles we have had to overcome.  The following is a list of obstacles:

  1. Death of a loved one. This individual had read the AT Guide and knew where all the places the AT met a railroad.  
  2. The work in closing an estate when a loved one dies.  
  3. Death of a beloved furry friend. 
  4. Both Mr. Rook and I stubbed and bruised our toes during the past month.  
  5. Multiple trips to REI and Field and Stream, because we thought we had an item. 
  6. The postcards sent to family members were printed wrong and had to be reprinted.
  7. The chaos of packing Chopped Boxes and Resupply Boxes.
  8. The chaos of packing in general…stations set up around the house based on gear.
  9. Transportation issues to Harpers Ferry.  We are now going by car to Cleveland and taking a train to Harpers Ferry.  
  10. Transportation issues getting onto the train….The Cleveland Amtrak Train doesn’t open until 12:00 PM

malchus stafa, b Loading up Frank’s car. Mar. 2023. Author’s personal collection.


Enrique Salmon’s Question

In a class I took this winter, Enrique Salmon provided a lecture.  It seemed fitting for the AT journey.  He asked us, how do you introduce yourself to a new environment?  The introduction should include the people, the trees, the rocks, the stream and all the creatures who live, work, and play there.  You are a stranger… how will you let them know about you?  During a congregational meeting for my church, this blessing poem was read.  I am leaning on this threshold blessing as a means to introduce myself to the AT.  

malchus stafa, b. ACT at Harpers Ferry. Apr. 2023. Author’s personal collection.


Blessing the threshold

By Jan Richardson

Illuminating the Threshold

WomensChristmasRetreat2015.pdf (

This blessing 

has been waiting for you 

for a long time.

malchus stafa, b. Day one Dessert Queen and Mr. Rook. Apr. 2023. Author’s personal collection

While you have been 

making your way here

this blessing has been 

gathering itself 

making ready biding its time 



malchus stafa. b. Common Grackle. Apr. 2023. Author’s personal collection.

This blessing has been 

polishing the door 

oiling the hinges 

sweeping the steps 

lighting candles 

in the windows. 

malchus stafa, b. Potomac River (River of Swans) and the Shenandoah (Beautiful daughter of stars) meet. Apr 2023. Author’s personal collection

This blessing has been 

setting the table 

as it hums a tune 

from an old song 

it knows, 

something about 

a spiraling road 

and bread 

and grace.

malchus stafa, b. Deer on the Canal Towpath. Harpers Ferry. Apr 2023. Author’s personal collection.

All this time 

it has kept 

an eye on the horizon, 


keeping vigil, 

hardly aware of how 

it was leaning itself 

in your direction. 

malchus stafa, b. Duchman’s Britches Canal Towpath, Harpers Ferry. Apr. 2023. Author’s personal collection

And now 

that you are here 

this blessing 

can hardly believe 

its good fortune 

that you have finally arrived, 

that it can drop everything 

at last 

to fling its arms wide 

to you, crying 




malchus stafa, b. Trillium (Birthroot). Canal Towpath, Harpers Ferry. Apr. 2023. Author’s personal collection


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Comments 3

  • Judy H : Apr 7th

    And you’re off! Bless the threshold and the trek. Easter will have an entirely new meaning!

    • Beth Malchus Stafa : Apr 12th

      Thank you Rev. Judy

  • Libby Wetherholt : May 17th

    Thought I had subscribed nearer to your start, but realized I was not getting any updates. Hope you’re managing well.


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