I remember the dumbest thing anyone said to me after my Dad was killed was “everything happens for a reason”. I cannot express how stupid and shitty that is to hear when you’ve lost someone. And the day my friend called to tell me her 11 year old son had died I remember hoping no one would say that shit to her. Because there is no reason. No reason. No reason. You cannot give me a reason for a boy who’s 11 years old to die. You can’t. You wont. There isn’t one. The truth is, at 44, what I don’t know is much greater than what I do know but I know this….shitty awful things happen. They just do. There doesn’t need to be a reason or an explanation or a lesson learned from every event. Sometimes we are dealt some almost unbearable tragedies. And there is nothing you can do, say, pray for, create, offer that can make it hurt any less. Walking through grief can be one of the loneliest, heart wrenching, physically and mentally painful things you’ll ever do. I just didn’t want her to walk alone.
There’s was nothing I could say. In fact, my friend comforted me as I cried on the phone when she told me. I felt like Id been stabbed in the gut. I cannot begin to imagine how she felt, how she feels, how she’ll feel every second of every day forever. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some very very special friends in my life. April is one of them. I love her. I love her heart. I love how smart she is and witty and kind and that she can do 20 things perfectly at once without getting rattled. I have always admired her for that. I can barely do 2 things at once….moderately. So that next day when I woke up with swollen eyes and my gut hurting, I wondered what the fuck I was supposed to do to help. There is nothing I can do to make it better. And I thought about the walk through grief. All who’ve experienced a great loss have taken that walk.
Its a walk you take alone. Its a walk you cry on. Its a walk you laugh on. Its a walk you sometimes run on and sometimes stand still on. Its a walk you can’t escape, can’t hide from, can’t go around or avoid. Its a long, winding, crooked, relentless walk. And it never ever ever ever ends. There wont be a day 6 years from now or 26 years from now she wont be on the walk. There wont be. And the first 11 days of that walk are almost no different than the 8,456th day of that walk. But maybe I just thought if I could walk for 11 days I may be able to somehow take a little of it for her. Somehow. That maybe my steps would ease her’s just a tiny bit. Maybe not. I don’t know. But I had to walk.
I don’t think I thought about how far 11 miles was. Its far. Its far at sea level let alone 7,600+ feet altitude where I live. Its far and its long and when you don’t have enough battery left on your phone to play music its quiet. Very very very quiet. I thought about the quiet she will hear. Quiet can be so beautiful sometimes and so very painful at others. I had about 44 hours of hiking time. Most of it alone. Just me. Sometimes music. I sang, talked to goats, ran from goats, ran from turkeys, watched a lot of birds, rabbits, squirrels and deer.
One day I saw a deer jump a fence someone had around their house and eat all of their newly planted petunias. I stood still for 10 minutes and watched the deer. She looked at me every few minutes to see what I was doing. Probably thinking “dumbasses think a fence can stop us”. She ate all if those petunias, then gracefully leapt over the fence like it was nothing and left.
One day a herd of deer just stood in front of me. They didn’t move. I slowed my pace, took little steps hoping they’d move. They didn’t. They didn’t give a shit about me or my walk or my blisters or my hip pain. I walked around them.
One day on the Santa Fe Trail I was alone, no music. Lots of space and time between me seeing anyone at all. A teenage boy came riding past on his bike. He put his hand out, slapped mine in a high five and said “keep on keepin on”. He had red hair. Like Carson’s. That made me smile.
One day I huddled under a tree alone with hail pelting my head. I started to cry then I just got pissed. Seriously….WTF.
One day I walked up to the backside of a farm with goats and donkeys (local residents of Palmer Lake will know what Im talking about). I wanted to pet the goat. The goat did not want to be pet. Asshole turned on me, ran at me, head butted me. And like a bigger asshole I screamed, ran and tried to reason with him. Goats don’t like me. Lesson learned.
One day with no music I decided to sing. Thank God no one could hear me. I decided I’d just sing some of my favorite songs to pass the time. But Ill be damned if I just couldn’t think of any lyrics. Except for one song. “Silent Night”. I have no earthly idea why the hell I’d remember all the words to a Christmas Carol and not an N.W.A. song or Eminem song. But I belted out all the verses to “Silent Night” about 3 times in a row. Then I listened to the words carefully. And I cried.
The first mile was the hardest. The last mile was the easiest. I don’t have enough words to thank everyone who sent me messages and texts and called me and hiked with me. No words. All the gratitude my heart can muster to you all.
So many hours and so much to think about and so many revelations I could never write them all down. Love is such a funny thing. Some of us avoid it. Or try to. We think if we don’t love we wont hurt. Maybe thats true. Maybe walking alone is part of life. You gotta learn to walk alone sometimes. And when friends can’t, you need to walk for them. Carry it for them. You avoid seeing hurt when you walk alone. You avoid getting disappointed in others. In boys. In love. You avoid connection that can lead to heartbreak. You avoid a lot of pain. But God….you sure fucking miss a lot too. You can try to walk off regret, love, heartache, pain, grief. You can walk to something. Or from something. Or maybe you just walk because you can. And its absolutely all you CAN do. It doesn’t all have to make sense. And there doesn’t have to be a reason. There really doesn’t.
I find my church on a mountain. I take my tears and leave them there. It is magical place. A place I return to as often as I can. Maybe I walked for Carson. Maybe I walked for April. Maybe I walked because I was sad. Or angry. Maybe I walked for selfish reasons. Maybe I walked back to me. Maybe thats all it was. I don’t think things always have to be complicated or explained. Or deep or meaningful or make sense. Sometimes maybe you just walk. Because you can. But I know this…a hike is never ever JUST a hike.