I seem to find God when I am hiking. I am fortunate to hike in remote, beautiful places, often alone. It usually feels disrespectful, or dangerous to listen to music, so I hike in silence. It’s the perfect formula for contemplation – begging the questions, where did all this splendor come from and why am I fortunate enough to be seeing it? Hiking makes me feel very large and very small at the same time, like a meteor shower does in a place with no light pollution.
Sometimes I Stumble…
The greatest breakthrough on my journey toward sobriety happened while trekking in St. Augustine’s spectacularly desolate Guana Reserve.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I walk as one with nature, birds on my shoulders and squirrels scampering in my wake like St Francis of Assisi (or Snow White). In fact, I tramp along with my thoughts, ideas or snippets of memory. I’m thinking of the next footfall and whether my new boots are going to hurt like the ones I took to Canyon Ranch and ended up throwing away in a fit of pique because they made my feet go numb.
I was on the Appalachian Trail Saturday: a rigorous enough climb that on a warm, December weekend, there were only a few cars in the turnoff. The AT does not mess around. There are no gradual grades to warm you, no bunny slopes – it starts out going briskly up and keeps on going up. The first part of the hike I thought about my new shoes, my ankles, my tortured breathing and bears.
Georgia Mountains in Winter
The Georgia mountains in winter are russet and brown and a Tim Burton-esque study of narrow, odd, oak tree trunks. The mountains surrounding are dusty blue. The path is thick with dried leaves. There is a beautiful monotony to it all and after an hour of being tricked over and over again I was almost to the top, it occurred to me I wasn’t thinking at all.
Which started me thinking again.
I stopped, and I was in a glen, sun-filled – neither top nor bottom of the hill. I was very large and very small at the same time. And I thought about where I was, about my lifesaving sobriety, about the fervent outpouring of love and help I have received. There was no sound, until I filled the silence with the words, “Thank you,” and “Please God, show me the way.”
I can’t be the first wanderer to find glory on the Appalachian Trail. In fact, you can feel it; prayers have risen up from these woods before. Just like the cloud-mist, burning off in the afternoon sun.
Today I’m not drinking, because it is not the way.
How come you’re not drinking?