Confessions of a Guy Who Quit iv: A Thing I Lost and What I Got / by Ryan Koch

In the fall of 2018 I took a two month 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.

Glad to look up and see this!

Glad to look up and see this!

A hat. Over years of gardening I have come to appreciate a hat for a number of reasons. On Day 3 of my long walk I lost the cap I was counting on to shade my face from the sun, and my glasses from the rain. I arrived at a spot where the trail moved down a slight grade into standing water. The water in Cave Run Lake had risen and pushed itself into this tributary due to the recent rains. I tried to stick with the trail, so devoted was I to the trail markers. But within a number of yards I was in hip-deep water. I would have to be more creative about getting around this.

So I turned away from the lake, which was on my left, and up the creek a bit. Before too long I witnessed much more water than I initially suspected filling this low-lying area. This was not encouraging. Off the trail now, my pace was slow. Small trees and thorny vines crowded me—a real bushwhack was underway. Also, I was gaining a bit of elevation, so by the time I saw a spot to cross a manageable stream, my path would include a scramble down a steep and rocky hill. While I was sorting all of this out amidst a dense patch of trees I reached up to adjust my cap and found that it was not there. I was so focused on my footing that I completely missed the moment then the cap went missing. I am not one to litter by leaving gear behind, but this thing was totally lost. I crossed the stream hatless, and then I crossed another within the same hour, before I was back on the trail.

Without my cap I was able to enjoy a wider view. Much of my attention was still devoted to the trail—the mud I could avoid, the mud I couldn’t, the roots that may serve me, the rocks that may be slick. The trees around me were still in full leaf, so I did not risk sunburn without the shade of my hat bill. Now, looking up was something I learned to so, something I had to remind myself to do. But doing so began to avail me to a sustaining beauty overhead, a quiet miracle I nearly walked by. Once it was the moon out in the morning. Once it was an owl on a branch ten feet above the trail. More than once it was a tree clinging to a moss-covered rock. It was as if that bushwhack, that most inconvenient stream crossing, had knocked the scales from my eyes. Now I could begin to learn how to see, how to look, how to watch without expectation. Now I could draw energy from the life around me and the beauty hovering just above my head.