For five full months we breathed only fresh air. Straight outta the leaves and into our lungs. It got smoky occasionally, but you get the point. Now that we’re home, we’re all too eager to stay indoors with our hardwood floors and black-out drapes. In the woods, we absorbed all that fresh air, sat in the dirt, thought our thoughts, exhausted ourselves. We walked and walked and built up our bodies, just to beat them down as we continued to walk and walk. Now we sit. And we recline. We lay, feet propped up on couch arms or pillows. We take a stroll to the café and play short games of ping-pong in the yard, but our steps are limited. They are few. We are making up for all of the steps from this summer, over compensating our leisure to catch up.
And we absorb. We absorb the technology, recharging when the batteries get low and blink urgent red. We absorb the movies and podcasts and books and tv shows, one after the other after the other. We cram our heads full of entertainment that we’ve missed while we were idling among the trees and the mountains. We scan the internet and read the comments. Before we were turtles; now we are sponges. We buy ridiculous things to fill our house with, because we don’t have to carry these items on our backs.
We “climbed the mountains and got their good tidings,” and now we binge watch Dexter. The mountains called and we went. Now friends call and we have dinner parties. I scatter vases of fresh cut flowers throughout the house, but they wither after a few days. I try to remember to water the garden that was planted in our absence, but this is a big responsibility.
Things were so simple then: walk, eat, sleep, repeat. Don’t forget to survive and to occasionally roar with laughter. Now we are back in the swing of it. Parties, concerts, movies, activities, phone calls, headlines, junk mail, rent checks, cable boxes, wifi, gas prices, vegetables, bike rides. Work? All of these forgotten routines, so easy to pick up where we left off.
“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before.” —Alice Walker
The PCT is but a blurry memory that pulses occasionally from somewhere deep in the void. This thing that we did for so long that was all encompassing, that was our life. But this is our life. “How did we do that?” we marvel from the confines of our comfortable bed, contemplating the trail map that hangs crooked on our wall. The aches and pains and dirty feet and smelly socks are gone now. No more worrying about pole tips or insoles or water treatment.
I’m not complaining. Coming home has never felt so good. Rejoining society and all of its glory. Nurturing friends welcoming us back with open arms and home cooked meals. The red and gold couches beckoning to our weary bodies. Art and music, cars and motorcycles, keys and mailboxes. The scale is balanced: silence and noise.