Tuesday, May 15th, 2012:
(Today is the first day of the new Return (year), and of a new four-year "Tally" of the 43 Ides. This from my sci-fi fantasy tale - the calendar and spiritual prayer cycle in use in that distant future time when the Seventh and final Shepherd was emerging. The holiest of days in a Tally, "The Lost Day," has just come and gone while we slept. It is a most appropriate day for reflection and self-examination. For those interested, I've appended more at the end of this post).
There is nothing terribly light and airy about this post, so skip over it if you don't want to read about the down-side of long-distance hiking.
After 123 day-hikes so far in 2012, I'm off the trail, taking a zero day today (Tuesday, May 15). It seemed like a good time ... rainy day. But that's not the main reason I needed a zero at this particular time. I'm at a low point. I feel beaten down ... old ... weary. It feels like the trail, or my routine, is breaking me. There's not as much joy as before ... and more pain.
I've not yet reached half-way in this journey, but I'm close, so the lights at both ends of the tunnel seem dim and far away. I've lost the freshness and enthusiasm that comes at the start, but cannot yet sense the approaching finish-line.
Physically I have no major single problem that would be a show stopper. But there is an accumulation of little things. There are the chronic issues that I came to the trail with, such as my 1986 broken left ankle that the doc chose to let heal with a bone fragment out of place (so the ankle is not as stable as a normal one). There are the strange new issues, such as the pain and stiffness in my neck and shoulders, that have become chronic on the trail. Note that I've used the term 'such as'. A complete list of the complaints I have would bore the reader to tears. Lets just say that pain is an integral part of this process of getting to Maine, just as the old saying warns.
Did you know that I somehow ripped the nail off my right little toe? Yes, I said *somehow*. It happened about five days ago, and I didn't even notice when it happened. That's how numb my feet have become. That's how much tolerance for pain it takes to do this thing.
Did you notice my report that I hiked two thousand miles of trail and just recently re-injured my weak left ankle off-trail while trying to crush an aluminum soda can? Such a classic prototypical story of irony that is ... and now I have my own version of it.
So I ask myself: Do I appreciate how hard this has become? Do I really like to hike *that much*? Am I ready for it to get tougher ... when I reach New Hampshire?
Can a 63 year old man hike the entire Appalachian Trail in both directions - 4368.4 miles - in a single calendar year? Has anyone my age or older done this? Are there enough road access points in the tough sections of the Whites and Maine to accommodate my out-n-back, no-nights-on-the-trail day hike approach? Or is Mahoosuc Notch my Waterloo? Have I been delusional right from the start? Am I on a fool's errand?
I'm soul searching today, and will continue tomorrow. In tomorrow's post, I hope to provide some tentative answers. But today, honestly, feels as if it could be the zero that ends my hike. *Could be* ... it's too soon to tell.
The last day of the four year Tally cycle (between May 14th and May 15th of the final year) is a calendar day that is Spiritual only, not physical. For further explanation, here’s an excerpt from an appendix to my book, in preparation:
About the Lost Day: A tally represents the fundamental spiritual cycle for self-improvement and growth, because each tally concludes with a special atonement day when our innermost being is laid bare and open before our Ancestors and Protectors. At the completion of each tally, one day is unaccounted for—there are forty-three ides of thirty-four days’ length in a tally. Forty-three times thirty-four is 1462, one more than the number of days in four returns containing one leap day.
So the new tally must begin a day earlier than the keepers of the tally would “expect.” That day is lost to men, but for cosmic balance it is not lost to our Spirits. And so the first ide of the new tally is devoted to the “reaching out” to touch that Lost Day that was hidden from our conscious mortal minds by the Ancestors
Though lost to consciousness, the Lost Day is an integral part of our spiritual whole.
On the Lost Day, the Spirits hold all living beings (and indeed, all the moving planets and stars) in a deep sleep or trance; and during that day, they move among the living, taking an accounting and reaping the spiritual harvest (the emergent ‘knowledge’) that each one of us has cultured through our actions and prayer. This harvest represents our worth to them, because it is what sustains and impels the very current of reality—the River of Truth. So the greater the harvest we provide, the more influence we have on nature’s course, and therefore the more favorably the Spirits will regard us through the coming tally