|This is me - self portrait from the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park, October 9, 2012|
When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail both ways in 2012 my trail name was 'Seeks It'. As I proceeded through that ten month Odyssey/Pilgrimage many people I met on the trail asked me 'What is it that you seek?' Others would ask 'Have you found it?'
It's taken two years. The second anniversary of the completion of my 4368.4-mile sojourn comes up on November 3rd. But now, on the threshold of my 67th year, I know precisely what I was seeking. And I know that I found it.
The self portrait above contains no human being. Yet it is a better picture of who I am than almost any other picture I could show. It is the timeless in me, the selfless. This is what nature - my nature - has called me to seek since I was a child.
It is delicate. It only whispers--quieter than the wind. It is so shy and so reticent--so easily overwhelmed by the chaos of human entanglements--that it only comes forth for me when the wind has stilled and civilization has retreated to a box in the closet of my mind.
And that is why I need to be a recluse - at least every so often.
Ahhh, yes. Of course I know we humans are social animals. I crave companionship as we all do. While on the trail I felt as though I was able to regulate my surroundings so that I could get just about the right mix of solitude and human comfort. A little of the latter goes a long way for me. Too much, and I'm seeking to retreat deeper into the woods. Too little and ...
... well, have I ever really had too little? The world these days seems so utterly saturated with human influences. Even on a still summer morning while sitting alone watching the sun rise from a ragged mountain top, the twittering of birds in the underbrush is usually accompanied by the throaty moan of a jetliner high in the stratosphere, doggedly devouring the dreary miles between Hither and Yon. No, I'm not entirely sure that I have ever experienced too little connection with my fellow man.
And that is why I am a recluse - at least by comparison to most.
So as I write this reflection of past experience, I'm projecting it into the future. I'm too old to waste time doing things that burden me needlessly, especially when so much that I love is left to live for.
I want to 'hike my own hike' as they say in Appalachian Trail parlance, sharing experiences along life's trail via social media (through my freely offered writing, mainly on this blog) where others who might appreciate my ramblings can do so free of charge, anonymously, and without overt judgment, where those who find me tedious are free to ignore me without appearing rude, and where I can share myself without undue entanglement in the rigors of self-promotion, without the bane of unmet expectations, and without stumbling into the shadowed pits of narcissism.
If you meet me in person along life's trail, I'd prefer it to be 'out there' - under the open sky - sharing nature's sanctuary, with civilization no closer to us than the stratosphere, or in a box in the closet.