Empty Chairs

Though the trail has been good to me, and I’m grateful for the journey, I have to confess to the sadness. In the last week I’ve been heart sick for my family. I passed through a lot of AT landmarks that held memories from ten years ago. Places like the Mason-Dixon Line, where Sara-Tide and I shook hands as a northern and southern woman, or a road crossing out side of Boiling Springs, Pa, where my incredible family picked me up with my hiking buddies to join us for a few days. I recalled vividly the tall grass in which I hurled my backpack and hiking poles to run into a hug when I saw my little sister, Mackenzie. I laughed out loud, walking this week, at the memories of getting to introduce my hiking family to my real family and the ways we goofed off together.

I stopped in my tracks at the sight of some of it’s emptiness. Particularly the table that Stephen and Sara-Tide and I shared for the “Half Gallon Challenge” now vacated. And me, just passing through, with a bitter sweet smile. Walking into Duncannon alone felt heavy. I recalled the talk I had with Sara-Tide on the way in last time, about how grateful I am for my family, and here I was a bit melancally, missing all of them.

I got to meet up with Bard and Seeker in town later on. On my way out, I started to leak some of the emotions of missing my three closest companions, the memories flooded my eyes as I stepped out into the woods north of Duncannon. It was there that I experienced my only overnight camping trip with my mother and two younger siblings. I was missing them dearly. We’ve always been a tight-knit team, and having them join me for this journey meant the world to me. I came upon the spot I remembered taking this photo of them and sat for a good think.

My family has been through a lot since then, I think that’s where-in lies the sadness. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking back to the togetherness and the simplicity we had then. Before cancer and mental illness and such a divided political era, there was the four of us with lust and hope in our eyes. That’s not gone, I know, but for today, it’s missed.

A few days later, Seeker and I were invited to Bard’s mother’s house with him. It was beautiful. We went to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, which I found fitting, as they are starting to feel like my trail brothers. I think I cried eight or nine times on our zero day, being touched by the love I was witnessing in that house and the music we filled it up with. We were five voices, singing with our hearts open wide and my, my, my…how we sang together. One would think there were 10 of us. Lucky doesn’t describe it. We celebrated Shabbat with Bard’s mother and step father, both of whom are Rabbis, and it was an absolute honor to be part of their tradition. The meal was unbelievable and the breaking of the bread and wine was full of joy and gratitude.

I have been walking alone this week, but something feels different. I feel cracked open and closer to the ground. I feel like I’m here. I’ve arrived. I’m here with some sadness and hopefully some healing, yes, but mostly I’m here with the heaps of love that got me this far.

Long May We Walk.

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