Confessions of a Guy Who Quit ii: Things Forgotten / by Ryan Koch

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.

Sharing notes on introversion with this old pro.

Sharing notes on introversion with this old pro.

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.