Tuesday, February 21, 2017

follow the river

 I went down to my river spot on Sunday. It is always with a bit of trepidation because of the cottonmouth snakes that live back there.I step daintily, keep an eye out and am relieved when I reach my writer's log. It is a half mile walk through the floodplain and Sunday there were many animal encounters. A pair of mallard ducks were roused from their island peace and flew up the Flint. Four deer took off at my approach and a flock of Sandhill cranes were calling overhead. I never could spot them but they travel by us twice a year migrating up and down the river. I kept thinking; " follow the river, follow the river" and my thoughts, like a bird after a long flight, slowly brought a story that haunts me.

In 2013,  Geraldine Largay, a  66 year old hiker from Tennessee was living her dream. She was fit and healthy and perhaps at her age she thought":, now or never". She took off from West Virginia with a friend, to hike the Appalachian Trail to its end in Maine.There are pictures of her smiling, glowing, as she walked slowly along. Many thought so much of "Inchworm", her trail name,  that they wanted their picture taken with her.Then the first of several unfortunate things happened. Her friend had to get off the trail in New Hampshire. I can see her in on the trail  wrestling with this; should I go on; I am almost to Maine? She was known to have direction difficulties. She went on.

She went on and knowing what I know, I choke up as I type this. At some point in the deep Maine woods, she left the trail and when she started back, she was lost. She found a hill and tried to use her cell phone.The messages to her husband were found on her cell phone two years later. Geraldine had starved . She kept a journal and it seems that she decided to put down her tent on that knoll and wait for someone to come along.The spot unfortunately was a mile away from the trail. A monumental search was launched to no avail. For two years her family wondered what had happened.

The part that saddens me so is that there was the Oberton stream was nearby and in August it probably wasn't terribly full.There is a hiking rule; follow the stream. It eventually will take you to something; a bridge, a town, something. Perhaps by the time she decided to do this she was too weak. If you have hiked from West Virginia to Maine and are near to your goal, the one thing you don't want to do is go backwards or down.

In 2015, they found Geraldine's neatly piled clothes near her journal , a water bottle , a rosary and her tent. If I close my eyes, I can see her there, praying.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


The Carolina Jessamine is now in full bright yellow bloom on the fence at the back of the house.I see it each morning from the window of this room, which is my own. Although I relish the bare, spare trees of winter,  to see some color is pleasing. I read somewhere that when women turn 40, they start to wear muted greys, browns and blacks. Why, who knows. Perhaps an unconscious mourning for the end of childbearing? I am determined to add color to my life. Everyday, I am going to look for color and celebrate it.

This came to mind as I read today's meditation from Thomas Merton. He mentions that when he closed his eyes on this winter day in 1952 , he saw purple and blue fish swimming in his mind. He seems to delight in what comes when his eyes are closed. Mostly, when my eyes are closed, I may see some white or shapes but there was a day in church when I saw something else. I can tell you exactly where in the congregation this happened. Six rows from the back on the right side. I was kneeling with my eyes closed and I saw her face. It was round, plain, with eyes closed.That is what I saw. I opened my eyes not believing what had had happened and then closed them again.There she was. My first thought was to stay there with my Mother, Mary, and visit. It did seem just like a visit where a chat or a hug would have be appropriate. But then, it was time to stand up and knowing that if I kept kneeling I would be questioned, I stood, and she was gone.

Why did this plain faced, closed eyed being appear ? I didn't have time to ask but over the months, impressions have come .I hope I am following her urgings in a faithful manner.They are not new nor are they always easy.I would like to think of them as colors. Prayers said in the bright yellow of a sunny day as I walk in the tree shelter of deep brown and grey woods. Small sacrifices that I see as an empty white coffee cup. Believing that I am loved by the Creator; this feels like a warm pink and orange shawl thrown around my body. And trust; that all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well. This knowing is fluffy white, the color of falling snow, the lightness of angel's wings, the soft white of a peony that has sweet streaks of red. This trust is not my usual first thought in a crisis but perhaps if I recall its color, I will fall into its warm arms right away. Mary Queen of the Angels, pray for us.