Day 77: Nature’s Hug

The light has turned the sky a childish blue and the clouds the lightest of pinks. I feel as if I were in my room in upstate New York — all the “happy clouds” that my parents painted all around me, tulips bordering my world. 

There is nothing but Tyvek and pine and sky above me here, nothing but cheerful birds singing their evening songs, not a soul around me, just all of the universe snuggling in tight for the night.

Today I walked far — 21 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation. I am proud of myself, and of the level of exhaustion I experienced. I am tired, but not beat after my nine hours of hiking. I think, after 970 miles, I am getting the hang of this walking thing. 

 I also am getting used to taking breaks while hiking alone, which is good for me. And I am capable of forcing myself to make dinner every night now, even when I don’t feel like making the effort.

Today I stopped where a whole group of people were stopped, by a picture perfect high mountain lake. One man told me a dip was well worth it. I took off my shirt and stood in the water for ages, until I finally could force myself to get fully in. It was cold, I gasped, and it was just what was needed on this hot, muggy day.

I had some wicked climbs today, and I threw my mind into podcasts, learning about medical history with Sawbones (polio and Typhoid Mary and patent medicine, oh my!) and life with Radiolab. One podcast, about a woman in New York who spied on her neighbors and watched them move from sweet young love to one of their prolonged deaths, had me crying while walking along, the whole weight of young death pressing upon me.

I have this feeling that is regularly with me, as if next year I might be gone. I felt it so strongly today, walking through the beautifully soft trail in a tall, dark wood. I have so little time on this earth. What will I make of it?

I walked and walked this evening, long past when I wanted to retire, and I was frustrated and achey. Finally, after climbing one last long hill (my hips and quads straining against the weight of my pack and gravity), I found my spot: a tiny flat piece of land with trees protecting me on one side and a gorgeous view of the rocky valley dropping down on the other. I felt lonely for a moment, wishing for human contact, for cuddles, for a hug. And then the sun threw light all around me, a private show, Mother Nature’s own hug. And the trees seemed to move their boughs closer and the birds let me know I wasn’t alone. 

 Tonight I am safe, and today I lived life to the fullest. There isn’t much more to ask for or do.