To the Boy Scout Troops and the Hiawatha North Country Trail chapter,
Thanks so much for the wonderful shelter that you built! I am writing to you from inside of it right now, where I have set up my tent (I still need it to keep the bugs away) and am happily settled for the night. It is so nice to be in this lovely spot and to have a clean space to spread all my stuff out on a floor!
I have been hiking the North Country Trail for the past few weeks. Yesterday I was hoping to make it all the way to Lake Superior but, with a late start, tired feet, and strong headwinds, I came up short. I had gone over 20 miles but I realized I wouldn’t make it before dark. I set a rule for myself that I MUST stop by 9:30pm. I was running out of time so I turned off the trail into this little clearing. What a surprise to find this beautiful structure! I looked at my watch- it was 9:27. I have been hiking for over 250 miles and this is the very first structure for campers that I have found.
I noticed the little sign that you built this on Father’s Day this past April. I don’t know how many customers you have had yet but I wanted to let you know that you have a very happy camper!
I hope you all get the chance to enjoy the North Country Trail as well. Thank you for making my time here special!
As indicated by this impromptu thank-you note, I found a cabin-type-thing last night- a 3-walled shelter with a roof and a raised floor next to a little pond along a little clearing. The most wonderful moments on this hike are those when I get to “discover” something. The element of surprise, the serendipity, is magical. To honor this sanctuary, I have decided to stay here all day. It will be a Day of Nothing. I want to enjoy my own company without needing a distraction. I want to sit with myself instead of trying to Go Go Go. I want to wait for the emotions to rise up instead of hustling past them.
I have been through a lot of misery in the last year and I feel like I haven’t property cried out all the hurt. I have waited for a Big Cry- a once-and-for-all cathartic release- that marks the end of suffering and the start of healing. I have cried plenty, but I still feel the buried pain of the divorce, the car accident, and the bulimia. I want one ultimate cry that will mean that I accept and I release all those old wounds. I wish it would happen here so I can move one.
Why am I so tired? I slept so much and it’s never enough. I just “did laundry” for 10 minutes and now I’m tired again.
I’m using my time here today to get some work done on the little cross-stitch pattern that I am making for Laura’s baby. I am going to miss the baby shower, which is happening this week. The least I can do is work on my gift for her. I’m making a scene of a happy cow munching on flowers. I’m honoring the little baby by dedicating part of my trip to it.
I am writing to you from inside of a magical little cabin-thingy that I found. I’m going to stay here all day and chill out on hiking for a minute. I took a bath and cleaned my clothes in the pond. Then, I worked on my gift for your little one while everything dried- naked arts’n’crafts in the woods. It’s later now and I am working on it again, but the bugs are out so I have to cover up completely. I even put my shorts over my head to protect my hair and looked like a nun. I feel like a much worse version of Maria from the Sound of Music: “Oh that Sister Michele! Always doing her cross-stitch with her Godly bits hanging about! Whatever will we do with her?!” I’m sorry that I am missing your baby shower but I am thinking about you all the time. Just stay strong in yourself and you will be a wonderful mother. I hope I make it back in time for the birth. I love you so much,
I have not spoken all day. This was not part of my plan, it’s just that I never had reason to say anything. When I hike, I sometimes sing or talk to myself, and there are the occasional strangers to greet, but today, nothing. I am fairly certain I haven’t had a single silent day since I spoke my first word as a child. This is an unexpected milestone.
I have to admit that part of me is very drawn to the idea of fasting in this place in a sort of stationary vision quest, as the characters in “Dalva” do. The truth is, I just can’t do that. I am not in a time in my life where I can skip meals or skip days of meals without spiraling into unhealthy bingeing. Maybe one day I will be able to fast meditatively, but right now I can’t risk throwing off the feeble control I have over those bad habits.
Thinking about my health: I wonder in what ways my 9 years of illness still affect my mind and body. Maybe it is why I need so much sleep. Maybe it is why my red blood cells are apparently low. Maybe it affects my metabolism and my hunger and my weight. Maybe it’s literally increased some lobes of my brain that cause me to be more impulsive. Even with a perfect record from now on, I may still suffer the consequences of what I did to my body for so long. I think of my addiction as an almost perfect parasite– it harms me but not quite enough to kill me, or even make me miserable enough to stop. But I know that the consequences may be waiting for me down the road. The thought of any permanent impact is impossible to comprehend- it just doesn’t compute.
One day a few years ago, I remember looking in the mirror at the inside of my throat. I was horrified to see my worst fears confirmed- there was obvious tearing and damage from the violet purging I was subjecting myself to every single day. I tried to use that reality-check of a moment to propel me into recovery but I continued to purge regularly. For months, I worried about my throat without breaking my pattern. I had read warnings about esophageal damage caused by bulimia and I knew something was really wrong. Finally, I saw a doctor and confessed my illness for the first time in years. After the physical exam, I cried, telling the doctor that I was afraid to hear what he had to say about my throat. He looked surprised and told me there was nothing wrong with it, they just look kinda rough on the inside! I was relieved to get a clean bill of health but also frustrated that I had still managed to skate by without apparent consequences. Even with a scare like that, I still stayed stuck in my deeply ingrained habits. The same pattern repeated after the car accident. My body was so broken that I was physically incapable of even sneezing– surely I wouldn’t throw up then I thought. Not so. I always found a way. Just like I did in Kalkaska, even on this sacred hike. I know now I can’t expect something to suddenly snap me out of my worst struggles. No change of scenery or dramatic plot twist will turn me into someone who can “become” healed without working constantly every day on it.
The bugs are so bad, ugh, it’s messing up my writing.
The day is over now, and while I managed not to speak and not to hike, I certainly didn’t succeed in having a day of nothing. I didn’t meditate, I didn’t “wait for the emotions,” I didn’t cry. I kept busy and, when I couldn’t be busy, I slept. I am disappointed in myself but, then again, I’m reminded that I can’t just think myself into being someone else. I am who I am: outwardly diligent, inwardly tentative, alternately lazy and intense, desperately seeking meaning in everything. I am capable of change, yes, but I will always just be myself, some version of who I was yesterday.
Continue to the next entry in the series here: Day 20: Naomikong Creek Shelter to Lower Tahquamenon Falls
Go back to the last entry in the series here: Day 18: Pine to Naomikong Creek Shelter
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To me..an amazing last paragraph. .!