So a lot of people are kind of baffled, or weirded out when I tell them that I hike alone. They ask me how I do that – how I spend all that time by myself, utterly alone. My standard cookie cutter answer (you tend to have a lot of them in your back pocket when you hike the AT – it’s not a bad thing, you just get a lot of the same questions) is something like, “Well I’m not alone all the time. There’s people that kind of bounce in and out, and you see them here and there. And you hike a little bit with them. But yea, for the most part you are alone.” And that is completely true, even though it is a bit of a boxed answer.
But the deeper truth is something a bit more difficult to articulate in thirty seconds to the questioner. The deeper truth is much more difficult for me even to understand, even though I know it to be true.
I’ve struggled over writing this post for some time now. And I didn’t want to write it too early, because I wanted to make sure what I was thinking and feeling was not of a whim. So bear with me as I try to write this down. It may not come across as eloquently and clearly as I have thought it through in my head. But hopefully some sense, at least, comes through.
The deeper truth is that I am not alone. Yes, there are times when I do feel isolated. Not physical isolation – that I can deal with. I’m talking about platonic isolation. I feel, in effect, isolated and alone in my core. One of the most memorable times this happened was the day after Solitaire and Scuba Springsteen left. I missed home a bit, and I missed my friends and family, and I was a ways behind my trail friends. It was a rough day. So yes, there are definitely tough times at some points. But more importantly, these times are fleeting, and they are few. They are a rut in the mind to be broken out of. They are something to be thought on, understood, and then overcome.
I know there is a deeper knowledge and a deeper truth that I sometimes understand when I am out there. It is not often, and it is as fleeting as my sad times, but it is more true.
Even in physical loneliness, there is sometimes a frame of mind that I see through that shows me that I am never alone. It is difficult to explain in text, or articulate in words, but it is there. When you have a lot of time to think about the world, and the cosmos, and what every thing, every object, every piece of matter, is in the world, you come to see something deeper than these ‘things.’ There is something more, something that resembles more of nothingness, that is part of everything and not part of anything. But it is the one thing the whole of our beings, and the whole of the cosmos share in common. It is not love as we know it today, but it is an energy that we all share. An understanding of empathy that we, along with every other piece of creation, are all part of this experience that we understand as the unfolding universe.
So when I first started my journey, I took my Grandfather’s Yanks hat with me. It was kind of a memento – something to hold on to on tougher days. And it was a way to keep my Grandfather with me who passed a couple of years ago. But as I’ve thought of these things more, and the place of mere matter like a Yankees hat, I’ve come to understand that I don’t need the hat to have my Grandfather.
We always tend to focus on ‘some thing’ nowadays in order to be happy or find a solution. Initially for me, it was my Grandpa’s hat. But what I’ve found is that things are not the answer. There is this amazing ‘no thing’ that binds each and every piece of creation in the cosmos. A nothing that was there before the cosmos came into being, and will be there when it is over. And that great Nothingness is what we all share and what we all somehow experience, in one way or another. It’s an amazing duality that doesn’t make sense – I know it doesn’t make sense. But I love it for what it is. It’s a chance to experience what we have in front of us, to cherish every piece of matter, every object we come to know, but to also realize that all these things somehow sprung forth out of a nothingness. It’s a great feeling when I am able to wrap my mind around it – this connection that all things have. But like I said, I only see it sometimes, in beautifully fleeting moments.
So why do I hike alone? I don’t hike alone – nobody does. Nobody lives alone, nobody dies alone, nobody does anything alone. We’re all part of something amazing, the monumental journey of the universe itself. You can not walk alone in such an extraordinary event – it is impossible.