We are all strings. Each of us has our own tune, our own voice, an audible and visible stamp we leave on the world with every action we take. As Newton explained, each of these actions causes something else, a reaction, a consequence.
A team is a grouping of strings, a section of the orchestra. A teams purpose is to effectively sound or reach certain notes or goals. My family and I are like a seven string guitar, but like many others, we have been out of tune for a long time. A guitar is an easily fouled instrument, humidity, cold, jolts, and other obstacles can very quickly through the strings out of tune. I won’t bother to repeat all of our obstacles, but suffice to say we have had our fair share. We have been thrown out of tune.
I have been thrown out of tune. In the broad scope of things, I am my own string, I am responsible for holding fast, and staying in tune with what my Maker has commanded of me. I have caved to the heat. I let myself go slack, and I have fallen out of tune with his plan. The heat proved to much for my strength alone, I survived, but only because He allowed it. I’ve been shown I’m not capable of such a herculan task, that I need His help.
All of us fall in and out of tune, it’s not all our faults per say, that is what it is to be human. But to be good, to be righteous, to be in tune, we all have to fight our more base nature and prove strong, not with our strength alone, at least not for me, but also with His.
This trail is putting me and my family back in tune. It is showing us where we lack, who has gone slack, or even too tight. It is putting me back in tune with my God. He is showing me where I have gone slack, or too tight. He is teaching me where and how to let go, or tighten.
My desire and hope is that soon we will all be back in complete harmony. An effective instrument, one worth of being wielded by an incredible artist. We make improvements everyday, but we still have a ways to go. We always will, but in the struggle lies the music. Through the journey, we are bringing harmony.
Everyone longs for the answer. The question we all ask ourselves is older than time. It’s a question of deep, primordial significance that delves into the essence of what it means to be human, to be alive. What is my purpose? What am I here for?
I’ve come to believe people have been lying to me about the answer to that question for a long time. Anyone who says they know what you are supposed to be doing in life typically wants your money, or worse, your time. My purpose is my own, and it is for me to find, as is yours. No one can tell you why God put you on this planet, or why tragedy has struck you, or why you have it all together. I don’t have any answers for you, I don’t even have any answers for myself, but I’m searching. Out in the woods I have found clarity. I have found a place to think, and I’m thinking about this stuff every day.
Some of you are shaking your heads at the screen right now. Your thinking I’ve got a screw loose. “How is a hike giving you the answers to life’s questions?” your asking in disbelief. Still some are saying that I am not reading my Bible enough, that I am wasting my time out here. To you I say, you’re missing the entire point. In a world with so many competeing sources of information, how am I ever just supposed to take someone at their word? No, I can’t tell anymore, there are just to many voices back in the “real” world. Too many people wanting to pull your money, your time, and your attention their way. My answers will be found in the seclusion of quiet woods, or on the summit of an impossibly long mountain. I will search where most don’t, and I hope to find what most don’t, myself.
For now though, I have nothing to put down on this page. The hunt is ongoing, it may never end, but I can give you this: Don’t let someone else tell you why you are here. Question everything. Test every idea. More importantly, test yourself. Don’t be like most men, as Thoreau put it, and “lead lives of quiet desperation.”
More to come. Happy trails.
We stepped off officially from Amacolola Falls on March 12th, today, around thirty days later, I’ve been given a chance to contemplate what this first month has taught me.
I decided a while ago not to hold any expectations, about this trip or anything else. It might be unhealthy, but I view expectations as a weakness, easily exploited by “Murphy’s Law”, which states any time you make a plan or have an expectation, it is very likely the exact opposite will occur. All that to say, I came out here with a completely open mind.
Physically, I was completely prepared. In the months leading up to our step off date, I began working out regularly, with the intention of being able to carry 50 pounds every day for 8-14 miles a day. Luckily, I overprepared, and I haven’t had to carry anything that heavy, but I was prepared for the worst case scenario. However, I learned quickly within the first week that I have a lack of patience. My younger siblings were not in the same physical shape I was, they were gaining their strength (as was I for the record) on the trail itself. What resulted was a slower pace then I desired, and it frustrated me. The trail highlighted a problem I didn’t know I had. I’ve learned and am learning the true meaning behind “far not fast”. You travel at the slowest persons pace, and eventually, everyone gets faster. If we were all moving at the pace I would have liked in those first few days, it is likely one of us would have developed stress fractures in our feet, or some other injury.
I also have learned about problems I want to avoid. It’s funny, mountains have personalities. The mountains we’ve been climbing happen to suffer from multiple personalities, they are extremely treacherous. On one day, we had 70 degree weather with clear skies, within the next two, we were hiking through shin deep snow drifts. Rain can come out of thin air, followed by cold, a deadly combination. That’s the exact person I don’t want to be like.
And then I learned about what I do want to be like. I wrote earlier about the fires that ravaged this area last year, and I am working every day to be the type of person that isn’t broken by that heat, and is able to come back and grow.
So there is a few of my thoughts from month one, I know I will have many more to come. Here’s to month two! Happy trails.
“Cut it out.” I mentally screamed at myself. I was sick of hearing myself complain. “Ha, you act sooo hardcore don’t you? One hailstorm and now you think you get to complain. Shut your soft mouth.” Sometimes the only person that will give you the hard truth is yourself.
The night before had been a long one. A rainstorm had blown in, and it quickly turned into a fierce squall. Wind buffeted us at record speeds, tossing the rain sideways, within twenty minutes, we started getting pelted by dime sized hail. Eventually, the tents flooded… Let’s just say it wasn’t a sleep filled night.
That’s part of the reason I came out here, to find my limits, to find that place where I want nothing more than to quit. And then to burn that place to the ground.
There is a picture I keep on my iPod, it’s the image of a canadite, undergoing the stresses of Hell Week, an infamous 1 week smokefest that marks the beginning of Navy SEAL training. Canadites are put through the ringer, getting less than six hours of sleep for the entire week, while undergoing grueling physical challenges. In the image, the canadite is holding a log over his head, covered in sand, trying desperately to complete one exercise or another. The caption says,”Trust the process.” So simple, yet so true.
Those words lingered in my head, as I stewed on my sleepless night, wanting nothing more than to be home in my bed. Trust the process, let it mold you. Take all that pain, take all that frustration, take all that weakness, and let it wash away. You’re allowed to hate it, you’re just not allowed to quit.
It’s a microcosm for life. Do hard things, and let it show you where you are weak. Let those experiences shape you, let them strengthen you.
So there I sat, looking up the next hill, not wanting to move. “Trust the process. Here we go.” I stood up, and took another step. And then another, and another. I won’t quit, because I want to know just how far I can go, and then I want to go farther. So I’m going to keep rushing headlong into what might feel uncomfortable, but what I know is forging a better version of me.
So here we go, one foot in front of the other… Happy trails.
There is a trail near my home in New Hampshire. It’s called the Lonesome Lake trail, and it leads up to one of the ATC huts along the Appalachian trail. Around halfway up sits a little swimming hole, around 15 to 20 feet deep. Above the water, sits a small ledge, about 10 feet tall. If you are anything like me, you already know what I’m thinking. Let’s jump off it.
Those were my exact thoughts the first day we hiked that trail with my grandparents. I was eight or so. As many of you can probably relate, the excitement of the idea of flight, was quickly replaced by a sense of fear as I reached the top of the little cliff. I collected myself, and promptly decided to jump, before stopping myself at the last second at least a dozen times. But then, I did.
It’s an odd feeling, when you successfully hit the water that first time. The fear just melts away, it isn’t scary anymore. That is similar to how I feel now, having completed my first couple of days on the trail. I’ve jumped off the cliff, and here I am. The anxiousness is gone.
My last two posts went into the emotional side of this journey, today I’m going to stick to the physical. I have loved almost everything about the last couple of days. The only thing I really miss is my friends at home, other than that, this is everything I want. My pack is heavy, but it feels like it was made for me. The burn in my legs once I reach the top of a tall hill is intoxicating. Cold mountain air in my lungs, fresh filtered spring water in my pack, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.
The weather has been odd, and unfortunatly, was cold enough for the last couple nights to be dangerous. We are currently taking a two day break from the trail with a friend, who we will call Mrs. Angel. The gratitude we all feel towards her can’t be fully described, her hospitality has been fantastic.
I’m looking forward to returning to the trail, back to the quiet. It is truly spectacular. I completely understand that most people can’t take 6 months out of their lives to hike the AT, but I would encourage all of you to find some time to get out in nature, there is always something you can learn out here in the wild.
The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.
President Theodore Roosevelt said that a long time ago, but the truth in those words will never change for me, maybe you can find the same thing out here in the woods. Happy trails.