Some of the literal paths I’ve traversed have taken me to the most beautiful, austere, awe-inspiring, lonely, crowded, secret, soul touching, gut-wrenching, love-filled places you could even begin to imagine. Those literal trails have been a metaphor for my life during those times.
Back in March of 2006, I was on the trail you see in the first photo above. On this same day, I took the picture below with my son. At the time, I was a few years out of an abusive second marriage. My ex-husband had been battling demons that he could not control when we split. Now, my son walking ahead of me, was heading out on his own journey of discovery. He was deciding then that he was not into education and was indeed into partying, drugs, and living like a thug. I was always there behind him. A ghost walker, I never left him alone. Just like in this picture. This is a clear example of path and life merging.
In Summer 2011, I was on another path. This time I was in the midst of a new relationship with a wonderful man. We were in San Francisco, part work, part play. The most enduring thing about this trip was how much we learned about one another and our quirks. Interestingly enough, our city tour was mostly based on a book about hidden stairways and trails…secret paths: finding them, enjoying their beauty. Coincidence? Here is a pic of one of our staircases:
That exact same summer about a month later found me in arguably one of the world’s most beautiful places. I drove across the desert with my teenaged daughter, through Death Valley, a short stay in Vegas, into Fresno where we met my sweet boyfriend, and on into the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite Park. I was terrified. My daughter was at a precarious age of attitude and adventure. My boyfriend is a man. They scare the shit out of me. I had just foreclosed on my home, and I was on the verge of changing jobs. We drove into the mountains, up and up and it just didn’t stop. I had to pull over and let my love drive. I’m terrified of heights. I thought I had seen mountains before, being from Virginia, but “mountain” means something different in the Sierra. It’s beauty mixed with power, mixed with danger, mixed with elation, mixed with sadness, mixed with complete and utter brilliance. It’s flower and rock. Snow and waterfall. It is the good, the bad, and the undescribable. A man, George Penca, disappeared on our same trail. We were the last to come off for the evening and his brother was waiting at the bottom. “Have you seen my brother? He is heavier and was wearing jogging pants.” We had not. He still hasn’t been found. But, at the top of that trail was a girl hanging from a tightrope above a 1500 foot waterfall. She was alive. Really alive. Yosemite haunts me. It is my fear and my life. I took many pictures. Some of them I’ve posted here for you, but really, go see it for yourself.
And that brings me to this point. This point where I type. I just read a book called Wild! by Cheryl Strayed, about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). It’s a 2,663 mile trail ranging from Baja to British Columbia. Cheryl Strayed has become my muse. Her life is fascinating and heartbreaking. Her story is sometimes my own, but more often it’s just uniquely hers. Her writing was brilliant and I am spurred now to actually hike this mammoth trail. I cannot put it out of my mind. All those moments I beat myself up about not taking the easy path, well, my friend Greg reminded me recently that we’re not meant to take the easy path. That is following someone elses lead, even if they’re right. We’re supposed to blaze our own trails, make our own mistakes even if others’ made the same ones first, because that means we’re questioning everything and finding our own truths.
I have been to Baja and have pics on trails there. I have also been (almost) to British Columbia. At Yosemite I was somewhere near the middle of the PCT. I have bumped up against the PCT a few times, but I really want to dig my feet into it. I know it will be difficult, almost impossible some days. There might be moments I have to stray from the path or skip a part I can’t get through, but I know that at some point it will just lead me back home. Wherever home might be. And that is where the undying love comes in. All of these trails eventually lead back to the people you can’t leave behind, the places you can’t forget and the moments that matter most. The common denominator is not the trail…it’s you.