My habit is to keep pushing
When I'm churning up a long uphill stretch, I vacillate between continuing to chug undeterred till I reach the top and stopping for a periodic break, knowing how refreshing even a slight pause can be.
My habit is to keep going, head bent to the ground, breathing in time to my steps, sometimes, on particularly long stretches that prove painful, reciting the Gayatri Mantra over and over and over again.
The wisdom of Mowgli
Last year, while reciting my mantra on the grueling way up to Bald Knob, mile 810 in Virginia, I stopped short when I encountered another hiker on the side of the trail. Mowgli.
He had popped up his hammock for some chill time. He was just hangin' around in the heat of the day, hiking his own hike. Which meant listening to what he needed and taking action, or inaction, on that inner guidance.
I thought of Mowgli many times after that first encounter with him and his hammock. I was convinced he was doing something right, whether he finished or not.
I've just finished reading The Wander Society, by Keri Smith. (It's on the Intentional Hiker reading list, BTW.) She offers a list of essentials for your "Portable Research Station"--bag, uniform, tools (notebook, pen), snacks. And some luxuries--portable tea brewing, portable napping.
Portable napping?! OMG!!!
Mowgli and his hammock immediately came back to life for me when I read that.
And it's gotten me thinking about my hiking plan this summer--the southern terminus of the AT in June, the northern terminus in August. About how I'll do things differently this year. About how I've rededicated myself to savoring the journey, every step and every pause.
To the savoring of pauses...I'm planning to join the ranks of the hammock hangers this year.
I'll pack my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock on the outside of my pack, along with my pocket rocket stove and ginger turmeric tea bags. So I can stop like Mowgli when the inspiration to nap hits.
Get there, don't get there. It doesn't matter. What matters is following my own path and letting that path unfold moment by moment, step by step, nap by nap.
(NOTE TO SELF: Here's another thing to do differently. Take more pictures of people, especially people doing things differently. I regret not having a picture of Mowgli lounging in his hammock. And of that little elfin' man who appeared like a hallucination at the top of Bald Knob wearing a big smile, a whit button down shirt and suspenders). And the pants-less man hiking up to Mount Washington in a drizzly fog, legs chapped red from the cold, leaving me to wonder what happened to his pants?)