In my last post, I wrote about my despair at what is happening in the US. I thought that blogging every day might help me navigate it. I had good intentions.
That night I woke up in the wee hours (hello menopause) and looked at my phone. It was 4:30 and I had a text from my brother, who had gone to New Mexico just the day before, summoned by my father in a dream, to be at Mom’s bedside:
August 6 & 7 Miles hiked: 0
Total Trip Miles: 263.9
Sleeping in a bed, my head on a pillow.
A shower in the morning.
A cup of coffee (or two!) with milk in it.
Long chats in the garden, with nowhere to go.
Watching the Olympics on TV.
Eating wonderful food in restaurants.
Reconnecting with family and sharing memories of my dad. Continue reading →
August 5 Miles hiked: 20.5
Total trip miles: 263.9
We wake up bright and early and head back over to the PCT from our awesome campsite at North Matthieu Lake. Soon we’re walking on lava, winding in and out of ancient flows, making our way to the road and MacKenzie Pass. We’ve gotten an early start because the forecast is for a hot day. Yesterday we saw a very sunburned southbounder, who said hiking over the lava flow in the heat had been unbearable. From MacKenzie Pass I figure we have about 5 miles of lava walking to do, and early morning is the best time to do it.
We can see both Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson in the distance to the north, and the Sisters to the South. We make our careful way across the eerie, desolate landscape, trying to not twist our ankles on the rocky trail.
We emerged in Durango on August 17, five days ahead of schedule. I haven’t written about the hike here on Gydle yet (UPDATE: yes I have, and you can read it all here) because it has taken me quite a while to 1) process the experience and 2) re-engage with regular life. When your existence is pared down to walking, sleeping and putting food into your mouth, normal life is so complicated in comparison. It boggles.
I don’t know if the hike “changed” me – but coming back, I feel the need for some change. So I gave Gydle a fairly major facelift. I hope you like the new design.
Because I found other peoples’ blogs about the trail so useful and interesting when I was planning, in the posts to come I’m going to tell the story of our hike, doing my best to leave all the interesting parts in and all the boring bits out. Plus a few photos. If you’re not interested, just bear with me. It will all be over soon and I’ll be back to my usual obsessions.
But first, a video:
Boy was I glad my man walked those 500 miles with me! And we would definitely walk 500 more!
After these first few months volunteering in the hospital, and now in the hospice, I am starting to come away with impressions. Things that stay with me, things I find myself thinking about offsite, things I am trying to learn how to digest.
The most important one is connection.
When you’re vulnerable like this, in the hospital or dying, things get pared down to the absolute essentials. Bodily functions, simple things. I got a good night’s sleep. A dish of ice cream.
The people whose suffering haunts me the most are those who don’t have anyone there for them. They are alone, navigating a system full of strangers, at a time in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. Their suffering is amplified because of this. Continue reading →
One of the things I have wanted to do since coming back to the land of English is volunteer with a hospice organization. Hospice, in case you don’t know, is caregiving for people who have a terminal illness. When there is nothing that can be medically done to turn a disease around, when there are no more treatments left, then patients and their families are eligible for hospice care. A hospice team – in a facility or in your home – makes sure that you are comfortable, as free from pain as possible, and supports your family as you make the transition out of this world.
Volunteers are a part of this team, doing nonmedical stuff like listening, bringing water or coffee or tea or warm blankets, wheeling patients outside for fresh air, and generally trying to be helpful while at the same time not making things worse than they already are. I just completed a 26-hour training program for hospice volunteers. My first shift at the hospice on the UBC campus is tomorrow afternoon.
Think for a minute: When was your last existential crisis?
Who, me? you say. Existential crisis? I don’t have existential crises. I’m a rational thinker. I’m practically an engineer.
I think everybody has existential crises, whether we recognize them as such or not. They’re in the high points, in the low points, in the situations that push you over an edge into a new thing. They’re moments in which you get a glimpse of the uncertainty at the very root of everything that is, and wonder about what your place in it could possibly be. You, this little wad of flesh and bone and bacteria. Continue reading →