In the fall of 2018 I took a two month long sabbatical and I am still trying to figure out what this has done for me, or to me. For part of my time away from Seedleaf duties, I took a long walk on the Sheltowee Trace. What follows is one reflection from my time on the trail.
I walked through a steady rainstorm for much of the very first day of my journey. Everything I was wearing got wet, soaked, by midday. I saw my first turtle right on the trail that morning, twenty feet from a marker that bore her image, but it was raining too hard right then to get a photo. My spirits were good. I was thrilled to be out, finally, after all the planning and studying. My steps remained prayerful that day, not resentful. It was mid-afternoon when I started to climb a ridge and saw water flowing down the trail. Down the actual trail. The trail ran alongside a stream, which was filling with water too. It was all just funny at this point. I walked up that stream/trail smiling, trying hard to be in on the joke.
Part of what buoyed my demeanor was a week’s supply of food. I couldn’t wait to get under my tarp and eat something hot! The rain eased a bit in the late afternoon, then started up again. I was exhausted. I settled for a spot and quickly made camp. My water and pot ready, I went to light the stove. But the lighter in my hand would make no flame. That’s funny, I thought: this thing has worked steadily for years! And while this was a true statement, it was not the sort of thing one should be able to say regarding a one dollar disposable gas station lighter. This thing had probably been running on fumes for quite some time. Now it had sighed its last.
I took a deep breath and laughed at my luck. I found a granola bar and some dried fruit. I felt silly not having a backup for something so critical. But I knew I could get something in Morehead the following day.
I got into my mostly-dry hammock in that day’s last light. I thought so many thoughts. My body was exhausted, but my mind was flooded with ideas, concerns, there on that ridge. I had no music, no podcasts or small tasks to distract me. All I had was this persistent rain on my tarp, and all of these thoughts. It occurred to me to write some of them down and get a bit of peace. I reached for my journal and started digging for a pen in one of my waterproof bags. But here was my second disappointment: no pen. No hot meal and no pen.
No problem. More laughter. This was fine, maybe, because I was just so tired. Maybe I was grateful to have gotten through all of that wet mileage. Maybe I was relieved that the trip was underway. For whatever reason I didn’t waste time worrying about what was broken or missing. I folded myself into my sleeping bag and listened to the rain in the fading grey of the hillside. I turned off my headlamp. It was 7:15pm.
The next morning brought me down a steep trail and through the campus of Morehead State University. I saw a huge bird that didn’t quite look like a vulture near a body of water called Eagle Lake. I saw students and I considered my appearance. Everything I wore was wet. My bag contained one book and no pens. I felt strangely underdressed.
I spied a gas station and entered. I found a lighter. A woman named April rang me up. I asked if they sold pens and she said they did not. Then she rummaged behind the counter a bit and presented me several. I took two.
As I repacked my bag outside the gas station, another fellow driving by said he had overheard my need of a pen. He too offered me one. I was suddenly rich in pens and falling in love with this town! Only later, down a quiet trail, would I think to be grateful for my forgetfulness, which elicited these kind acts.