I’m writing a book for some time now. It’s about the intersection of grief, resilience and coastal environmental concerns. During the last year while working very slowly or just absorbing information for the chapter I’ve been on, it seemed I needed to know why I was doing this, to even justify my writing and find a good rationale for all of it. It was not new for me to need to explain my place in time and space to myself. But what came along, and here’s the short version, was a great gift. I had been watching a documentary on the Appalachian Trail. I really had rented it for my partner.
But as I was watching it I was so taken by many themes. The whole idea of the Trail or as some call it, the AT, is amazing. A nearly total volunteer effort, it started out as an idea and was embodied by those that wanted to create one of the world’s longest, continuous footpaths. It is a journey to go from one end to other, whether you travel Georgia to Maine or go from the north to the south. Whether you only hike a small part of the trail you are in an amazing place that crosses so many states and holds throughout a sense of pilgrimage, solitude as well as communion and community. I was taken by the people that work the trail so that others can use it. How some do their quiet work on the trail and most hikers, whether through hikers or day hikers will most likely never know their name. But these volunteers work the trail and feel a sense of kinship with it and all that pass through it. They feel a sense of connection to the whole trail even if they’re just clearing a small patch near their home that’s not too far from the trail. They feel this connection even if they don’t ever hike much of the trail other than their special place.
I’ll probably be writing this book for quite a while yet. Some things take time. This documentary came along and suddenly, for whatever reason that I needed to understand why I’m writing my book, or why I write at all, I found what was for me, a deep and full body understanding as well as a metaphor that provided a key to my own work. I’m writing my small piece of the trail. This is something I’m a part of – my creative work and my hopes for it in the world– the trail and this writing and even sharing here is about being on the trail.
I understand that in my writing I’m a part of something that also goes through many states and mountains; and is essentially without a border. How can you put a border on love and spirit? As my book takes on a life of its own I also hope that it is becoming a record of how our lives are interconnected with nature; not just the living requirements of air and water and food but our emotional needs and experiences, including our grief and resilience both personal and environmental. These experiences in our lives intersect with all around us. Our personal grief, our concern for the world we live in, are all connected. There is no hierarchy of soul, just soul connections. There is nothing more direct in our lives than our relationship with nature, even if we do not recognize that. We are a part of nature. It is not complicated. It is right there.
We gain when others share their stopping points and how different ideas and metaphors have moved them through barriers or even places where they were steeping in other riches and strengths. We also gain when we learn about what acted as a green light, or even, a green fuse for us. There is plenty good in steeping; and it also feels good to move again. I came to understand that the AT allows me to feel a part of a wide and delicious group of artists, in all mediums, that want their work to express their love for the world. This is such an amazing beautiful planet and it is such a good thing to know that the joys I find in writing and dwelling in my writing are connected to wanting to be a part of the people on the trail, all who love this place, and want to make a difference.