Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin’ for something that I can believe in
Lookin’ for something that I’d like to do with my life

There’s nothin’ behind me and nothin’ that ties me
To somethin’ that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open; right now it seems to be more
Than enough to just be here today

And I don’t know what the future is holdin’ in store
I don’t know where I’m goin’, I’m not sure where I’ve been
There’s a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the livin’, I don’t need to see the end

Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

This song has taken on a special meaning for me. It distinctly and succinctly enunciates what my heart seems ill equipped to utter. Concerning the events of yesterday…it seems perfect.

I knew it was going to be a long uphill haul out of the glacial valley of Crescent Lake. I didn’t know when I would be able to bathe or shave next, so into the lake I went at 6:30am. That will wake you up more than any Starbucks could ever hope. Once in, it was divine, however it was a far cry from the balmy weather of the day before. The meteorological conditions had changed drastically in the night, and the crystal blue sky was now replaced by a somber and heavy gray blanket. A foreboding portent of the day’s events to come.

At the lake’s end, before it climbs lugubriously for miles without end, stands the last human abode for 22 miles. I didn’t know this at the time, so it seems rather serendipitous that I stopped there for a bagel and a muffin. While enjoying my last visage of the lake that brought me so much joy, I met Tamera and her husband. They were the folks who told me of my pilgrimage, or at least the baby carriage, making the news. That is actually why they came and talked to me. We talked for awhile, and then I gave them a drawing. They were generous with me, and they overwhelmed me with yet another bit of capital to help pay for food. It seems that I wasn’t meant to starve on this trip. People really are good, people are generous.

In all I ran and walked 28.5 miles yesterday. 22 of those miles was through the least populated part of the United States. I did this on purpose. This is why I wanted to start here in the Olympic Forest. I wanted my desert of temptation. I didn’t know what I was asking for though.

Not seeing a person, a house, a driveway, an animal for this vast of an expanse of wilderness,  was as if before me were an ocean, but one in which no oar was ever dipped.

I walked…walked…walked……………….and walked.

At one point my knee seized up so badly and so painfully that I thought I might have to end this adventure there and then. Half through gritted teeth, and half through prayer I managed to hobble on; limping as I did so. Finally I reached a high plateau and the road led on into the ineffable and untold distance. In one straight line the arrow of my destiny shot its way across a mirage of heat, clear cut stumps, and tall trees. The only water to be had was that which I carried, and that in and of itself was nearly gone.

However, the level straightaway led me to the conclusion that it was the cart that was singularly responsible for my ailing appendage. It was the very act of slowing it down declines, and pushing it, as Sisyphus, up the rise that were the very cause of my ailment. It was too heavy. I had brought too much. How I lamented that discovery. My salvation was also my demise. How poetic that that which was designed to alleviate my hardship was the very author of the same. But, I found that if I pushed it on before me and began walking with a regular gait, the pain abated. Gratitude.

After miles and miles and miles of stumps I grew tired. Thankfully I never despaired. Then—God talked to me. Call it what you will a still small voice, one’s conscious, the internal divine, or schizophrenia. But that. For convention sake I will refer to it as God, and for a pronoun I will use he, but it matters not.

He said, “Let it go.” “Let it all go.” At once I knew what he meant. He meant push the cart into the bushes and just walk on. Leave the trappings, the conventions, the safety nets. Leave the cell phone, the computer, the art supplies, and the sleeping bag. These hindrances were merely crutches.

The cell phone serves to make my mother feel safe. But, I know that if any man wants to do something radical for change, he must hate both father and mother in comparison to the love of that which is greater. The sleeping bag and tent had become my Wooby. All these trappings were actually hurting me and my process, as their very weight was hurting my knee. I had to let them go. To walk as the original Peace Pilgrim did…with nothing.

Then I came by a random marker. A post with merely an “X” carved in it. It was only one of two that I’ve ever seen like this. I knew, “X marks the spot”. I knew that I should leave the cart there. I prayed and said that I wasn’t ready, I needed more time to think and to process…but I knew that I would let it all go—-deep down, I knew that I would

I had to.

I had to let everything go, not because someone was forcing me, but because I wanted to. I wanted to let go of all my last clinging desires and aspirations toward my own “greatness” or the thing I called my “life”. I had to “Let it go” as it were. But I wasn’t ready; so on I walked.

I arrived at some grass, and I laid down in it. I didn’t take out my bed roll. I wanted to experiment with the idea of being with nothing. Could I deal with the bugs, the ground, the exposure. If I were to do this there could be no regrets. If I were to walk away, I had to know down the road there was would be no inner compulsion to turn back. For once I turned back, I knew it would be over, and my heart would turn to a pillar of salt.

Once I woke, I knew it was time. Across the road was a the only other marker like the one before. A white square post standing sentinel as grave stone, it’s only markings was a carved “X”. Coincidence? I said to God, I don’t know if I can do this. I started to cry…I stood there a long while. I had given everything else away. Every piece of clothing, all my extra art supplies, I had given it all. But, I knew that whole time, I was going to take some stuff on this trip. But now was the time to loose my life in order to find it. I felt the familiar question and the pain so reminiscent of the time I was first asked to give the entire contents of my wallet to Linda the homeless women on the street.

I asked God if I could/should keep anything that might be useful to my mission, and I assembled those pieces into backpack. But, I had to let go of my security. I had to let go of the person that I thought I was. I had to let go of the artist I’ve always wanted to be. I had to let go of it all…and to leave it behind. I wrestled with the ideas of why not return the things to the stores were I bought them, and then give the money away. I suggested the idea of finding a mother who needed the stroller for her kids, rather than abandoning it on the side of the highway.

In the end, I knew it was just a way to hold onto my security for a bit longer.

I then bore the backpack upon my shoulders. I took a apple and began to eat it as I said goodbye to the rest of my food, my water, my art supplies, tent, sleeping bag, and my life. One apple turned into two, and I still continued to stand there, and stand there…and stand there.

That morning I had listened to a Buddhism workshop on finding a teacher; a Lama. It said that once you have decided on a Lama, you should do everything the Lama says even if it costs you your life. However, you shouldn’t sacrifice your reason. If, as often happens the Lama asks you to do something “crazy” that is not in keeping with the Darma, you should use your reason. The example given was is a new student is told to rob the man next door so that the Buddhist temple could be built, that the Lama was testing the disciple to see if he was blindly following.

I said to God, if I were to wear this backpack, then no one will be able to see what is written on the back of my tunic. How does this help my mission? The back of my tunic says running 10,000 miles, not walking. The whole intent of this thing from the beginning was to run. With no art supplies, how am I to best serve others. If instead I put the contents of the backpack into the cart, then all things are accomplished. I can run, because the cart is lighter, and I can do art because I have supplies. These are my greatest gifts to offer, and with no backpack, people can see my intent.

I felt as if I had let God down, that I had failed. But, I was shown that my test was similar to that of Abraham, when he was called to sacrifice all that was dearest to him, his son Isaac. At the moment that he began to act, his hand was stopped and an alternative was provided. One that both pleased God and Abraham.

I knew though that I had to get rid of things that were weighing me down, both literally and metaphorically. The pastels that I had brought were represented holding onto my dreams as an artist, as did the easel. I had barely used them in the first 7 days. I knew too, that some of those pastels carried with them bad juju by how they were given to me. I left the easel and the pastels on the side of the road. I only allowed myself to look back once with fondness at the dream that they represented. Then I turned to face the road with no regrets. I had passed yet another test. I may still be called to go with nothing later, but for now, here I am. It seems that I am learning that faith is acting first on your belief in what is right, when it doesn’t seem easy, and then finding yourself delighted when what you truly wanted is made manifest in ways that you never thought possible.

At that moment, all the pain in my knee was gone, and I began running again.

 

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