I took Monday off. I needed a day of re-entry after our weekend trip, to do laundry and buy groceries and lay on the couch. Michael always wins the sleeping game on these trips, meaning I lost. I needed a nap. I used my couch lounging time to watch Wild. I'd read the book. The movie wasn't a surprise, but I still ended up crying with the main character as she dealt with her memories of her life and dealing with the death of her mother. "The doctors gave us a year. It's been a month." Cheryl Strayed says this to a nurse outside her mother's room as her mother laid dying of cancer. I hear ya sister. They gave us six months; it was weeks. Doctors are about as good at predicting life and death as weathermen are at predicting the weather.
As I rubbed my snotty nose on my sleeve, I thought "Traci and I should hike the Appalachian Trail. For Chris." If you knew anything about Chris, other than his Star Wars obsession, you knew that he always wanted to hike the AT. He talked about it constantly and was always picking up some sort of camp gear with the intention that he would need it for his hike. Why else would I have ended up with half a dozen titanium sporks? We watched documentaries about the trail. We read books about the trail. One night we even had dinner as if we were on the trail, cooking up dehydrated meal packs on a camp stove. I say "we" because Chris included me in his plans for the hike even though we both new that hiking two thousand something miles was not very appealing to me. It was never the idea of walking that distance that turned me off. It was the weeks of carrying everything I would need on my back, the weeks of being dirty and the idea of attempting to poop in the woods. I barely can manage that activity when camping at a campground with actual toilets. I included Traci in this idea because before I came into the picture, Chris and Traci where going to hike the AT together.
I had that thought of walking the AT and then I imagined what that hike would actually look like. The average time it takes to walk the AT from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia is six months. If you left Mt. Katahdin as soon as the snow melted, hopefully April, you could be in Georgia by Fall, just in time to carve a pumpkin depicting your travels on the trail. I get two, maybe three, weeks of vacation a year. My boss is cool, but I'm not sure how cool he'd be about me taking a six month leave of absence. But whatever. Let's say I could take off six (or seven, let's be honest) months of my life and put everything I needed in a pack on my back to walk my way through eleven states. While we're at it, let's say I convince Traci to do the same thing. Though convincing her would be almost as challenging as the hike considering she'd be walking away from her kid for six (or seven) months. Quinn is on the cusp of that age where hanging out with your parents is so roll your eyes Bo-ring. We could wait until he's fully into that stage before heading out and tell her that her absence will make him really appreciate her more. The prospects of being around a moody teen may be enough for her to dig out her back pack.
I'd like to think I'd start off just fine. Walking is my thang. I walk all the time. I just don't walk while carrying a bunch of stuff on my back, but how much harder could that be? I know. I am not delusional. There's a scene in the movie where Cheryl makes it to one of the camp sites and a guy there helps her thin down her pack to something more manageable, a metaphor for dumping the stuff in your life that serves no purpose. I know the one thing in my bag that would weigh me down and make the daily hike more exhausting would be the bag of Chris's ashes. Human ashes weigh more than you'd think and they do not serve me well. That would be the thing to dump. I can imagine the two of us doing a lot of cursing as we hiked along. Cursing our tired, blistered feet. Cursing the mosquitoes and the rain. Cursing the endless sound of our boots making one step after another. Cursing Chris for leaving us to do this ridiculous pilgrimage with out him.
Occasionally Michael talks about doing the AT. He's talked about doing sections of it a time like my Uncle Russell has done over the years. Sometimes I am included. Sometimes not. Sometimes it's something he wants to do on his own and I encourage this. The idea of Traci and I doing the hike for Chris is just a fleeting hallucination. Dump the things that do not serve you a purpose. I don't need to walk two thousand miles to dump the things in my life that are not serving me well. Our accumulations are on a constant loop. We collect. We collect stuff that's good and bad and eventually we get weighed down by those collections. So we purge. Collect and purge. Collect and purge. As long as it has nothing to do with my basement, I'm pretty good at purging. I don't need to prove to Chris that I can do something I never really wanted to do in the first place. I think that sentence is the bottom line or the line drawn in the sand. Crossing the line in this case comes down to figuring out if I'm living my life or trying to live Chris's life. I don't want to cross that line and I know Chris wouldn't want me to cross that line. We all have ways of figuring these things out on our own. Some people need to walk two thousand miles to do that. Some don't.
I fell like maybe I've already walked my two thousand miles.