September 7, 2014

Making Tracks

Not quite Lawrence of Arabia, Wadi Rum Jordan
I am besotted with stories that feature a Hero Who Goes. In The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce, mild-mannered Mr. Fry heads out one morning from his London home to post a letter...and just keeps walking. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed starts out on the Pacific Crest Trail clueless and weighed down by a pack overflowing with silly camping stuff that she doesn't know how to use and, mostly, her own demons.  In The Memory of Running by Ron McClarty, an obese chain-smoking couch potato in his 40's wheels his bike to the end of the driveway in Maine and gets off in Los Angeles.

The journey helps these heroes eventually burn away the pain that fueled their first steps. That's how it works in good stories.

I do not feel propelled by pain. Nevertheless, I am always yearning to get my boots on a path and walk from one point to another, to another. Our walk from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee gave me a great taste of that, but it was only 4 days. I want to be able to keep going, however long it takes, without having to stop.

If I were the hero of a good story, I would do that tomorrow. But I am the hero of My Story, which contains a lot of other characters and a plot that borders on ridiculous. At the same time, I am turning 60 in a matter of months and decided this was the time to honor that side of myself in a way that worked for my life. And so, tomorrow, I will Go by getting on a plane with E (and Mr. E) and walking for eight days in the highlands of Scotland.  We're hitting the Rob Roy Way, a 94-mile trail which is either named for a famous Scottish outlaw or a cocktail from the 1950s, I forget which.

Himself heard "highlands" and deduced that this was a code word for "uphill." He also saw the packing list, which is heavily weighted toward staying dry in the rain. While I tried to seduce him with thoughts of decaying castles, he decided to be the hero of His Story and stay on dry, level ground right here in Pennsylvania.

Each day will involve a 9 to 12 mile hike, from one tiny town to the next. We hired folks who booked the lodging,forwarded us detailed maps and itineraries, and most important, will shlep our stuff from one town to the next. So all I have to do is walk. Every day for 8 days, no matter what kind of terrain or what kind of weather we encounter. Just me, my very good friends,and my daypack (which contains a compass, a knife, matches and, lest the challenges of the trail get too much, a cell phone and a credit card.)

I don't know what to expect.

And that's why I am going.