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
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:
- Death of a loved one. This individual had read the AT Guide and knew where all the places the AT met a railroad.
- The work in closing an estate when a loved one dies.
- Death of a beloved furry friend.
- Both Mr. Rook and I stubbed and bruised our toes during the past month.
- Multiple trips to REI and Field and Stream, because we thought we had an item.
- The postcards sent to family members were printed wrong and had to be reprinted.
- The chaos of packing Chopped Boxes and Resupply Boxes.
- The chaos of packing in general…stations set up around the house based on gear.
- Transportation issues to Harpers Ferry. We are now going by car to Cleveland and taking a train to Harpers Ferry.
- Transportation issues getting onto the train….The Cleveland Amtrak Train doesn’t open until 12:00 PM
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.
Blessing the threshold
By Jan Richardson
Illuminating the Threshold
has been waiting for you
for a long time.
While you have been
making your way here
this blessing has been
making ready biding its time
This blessing has been
polishing the door
oiling the hinges
sweeping the steps
in the windows.
This blessing has been
setting the table
as it hums a tune
from an old song
a spiraling road
All this time
it has kept
an eye on the horizon,
hardly aware of how
it was leaning itself
in your direction.
that you are here
can hardly believe
its good fortune
that you have finally arrived,
that it can drop everything
to fling its arms wide
to you, crying
- Campbell, Joseph. The Hero of a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press, 1968.
- Richardson, Jan. Blessing the threshold. Illuminating the Threshold: Women’s Christmas Retreat 2015. WomensChristmasRetreat2015.pdf (sanctuaryofwomen.com)
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