Late August, they gave me a map and instructions. I planned my route, studied the names of the rivers, noted the areas to avoid, and headed out. Like all of the journeys before this, I set out with a heavy backpack and a light heart.
I have made this long trek across the months before and knew I would pass some familiar places. My legs, unused to walking after the long summer of watching clouds, complained and then grew silent. My back has never ceased to speak.
I have been schooled in maps, known, and walked them. A map is the story of the road, told true from first to last, but it is not the road. Contour lines, floating on the flat surface like ripples in a lake, are someone else’s story. Your feet must walk the road and find what elevation means.
I follow a path of beauty, canopied by a wide blue sky, days lined with slow smoldering trees that light the way. I know the sun will turn soon and the winds still the fires. I have a long acquaintance with winter.
Faces wait for me at each encampment; they are why I journey. The weary climb, the bruised feet, the hours setting up the camp – all are forgotten when we meet. I offer them my strength, teach them all I know, and trust they will remember some of what they learned for their own travels.
I have journeyed often and I have journeyed long, but I have never been so tired. Mid-October means I am halfway there. In December when the earth sleeps its longest night, I will sit before a fire and rest, tell stories of my trek, and remark on the terrain I covered.
For now, most of my writing must be in the lives and minds of my students.