When I was in 10th grade, I had an exceptional English teacher named David Devine. He was the right combination of loving and harsh, bringing life messages that were what I needed at the time. “Think of the world” was one of them. “Only boring people get bored” was another. There was also a charming anecdote about his toddler working hard to produce the content of a full diaper, to illustrate well, to a high-schooler-brain, that you may have put in a lot of effort, but if the result was shit, then it’s going to be treated as such. He knew how to get through to us.
There was a project with Julius Caesar, in which we were meant to make a bottom-line statement. A set of words strung together that can’t be broken down any further. “Julius Caesar is a tragedy because of __________.” That may have been one of my first experiences with brutal reasoning. Strip down a layer, not there yet. Another, still not the bottom. Strip again. “Julius Caesar is a tragedy because of the death of the conspirators” ‘There, I said it. No….too vague. Try again.’ “Julius Caesar is a tragedy because of the death of Cassius and Brutus.” I take a step back and look at my work. Something is nagging me. ‘Let’s be honest, Cassius kind of deserved it.’ There it is, “Julius Caesar is a tragedy because of the death of Brutus.” I stood tall. Mr. Devine gave me a paternal smile with his eyes. He was giving me coping tools, teaching me to weed out the bullshit, and it was working.
So I ask myself, what is this about. “I am writing this book because _________” This past week, I’ve been walking with the question. What is my bottom line.
Yesterday I was walking with a trail friend, Bard. We were inspired, after 24 hours of being a trail family of four. Sara-Tide, Seeker, Bard, and I had been weaving together for a day. This is something I have not done on trail so far. I told Bard that I might do well to listen, rather than speak right now. I know the earth is calling me to say something, but who am I to say it. He got fiery and challenged that doubt that’s holding me back. It was just the smack that I needed. “Who, then, is entitled to say it? Someone who’s spent more time with nature than you?” He coaxed. “If the trees told you something, say it!” There was frustration in his voice. I felt touched.
It’s time to strip away the bullshit. I came here to be a love activist. I’m acting out because I’m sick of this. We’re a family. There is no them. There is no someday. We are here. If we strip away every layer, what’s left is love. Love is the bottom. I’m sure of it and I’m not apologizing for it. It is the rock that I stand on and I am not backing down. I came here to love everybody and to tell the truth.
Last night, the four of us had our dinner together on a rock outcropping. We enjoyed the sunset and talked about the animals we all are. An owl, a bear, a dog, and a kitty. We wrote an improv song about it and knew it didn’t have to rhyme or make sense. We were as family as it gets. We marveled at the truth, we got so close so fast. Then closed out a beautiful day singing “This Little Light of Mine” with all our hearts, in three-part harmony. I felt alive in the deepest, truest way. I felt love for those three, love for myself, love for life. We were love. I know that was a moment for the books that I will revisit often. The four of us, in the new darkness, letting our light shine to the Shenandoah Valley. I believe we are coming together. I believe we are ready to rise up.