Searching for Strength on My Thru-Hike
When I think about the desert I think about James Dean in “Giant,” idly swinging a rope in circles, just happening to be the coolest damn ranch hand that ever lived. Or I think about Billy Parham in “The Crossing,” capturing and escorting a wolf back to Mexico, back to the mountains from whence it came. I think about horses and happy cows, and dusty midday whirlwinds pushing bustling tumbleweeds through the immense beauty we’ve tried to put a word to – desert. I think of Herzog, with a wild grimace, riding on top of a van for weeks on end to get just the right tracking shot. When I think about the desert I think about dreamy Spaghetti Westerns and the sunsets that people centuries ago admired just like we do. When I think about the desert I think about the woman that I want to be and I wonder if I will find her out there. But I don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about. I only have trumped-up fantasies about a wonder woman who can bound through the desert in giant leaps and is stronger than all of the men she meets. She is also very happy, because in my reality it takes immense courage to admit to myself that I can be happy and to admit to myself that I deserve it.
I was hiking today at Roan Mountain and a few times I stopped to admire the silence and to breathe in the forest, and for a minute I got scared because I remembered how small nature can make me feel and how all of the feelings that I’m able to ignore in society are so very present when all of the distractions are silenced. I know this hike won’t be an answer to my anxieties and I know it’s not going to live up to the towering pedestal I’ve placed my fantasies upon. I know it’s going to be really, really hard some days.
What I’m looking forward to are those moments when I stop to take in the landscape and I feel small, but unbreakable. Today I had that feeling. I started to cry, but I felt so strong in that moment. I was aware, I was enlightened. Can we live in that moment forever? Maybe not, but we can try to for five months out of the year. I think they call it thru-hiking.
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