My mind drifts between two storylines – that of My Music Man, as I perch between excitement as I plan my book launch and worry regarding whether books will be released in time – and my still unfolding novel, Beyond the Ripples. As I backpacked earlier this week for the first time since breaking my foot last year, words wrapped through my brain. Neurons formed phrases even when I thought my mind was still. Trying to only be in the beauty surrounding me. As I hiked, my novel’s theme of synchronicity melted into wilderness stories of my past: Dad’s visit to me in 1981 at my backcountry NPS-provided cabin; my daily hikes along the not-then-burned Pacific Crest Trail, basking in the glory of the sun and the magnificence of a snow-capped Rainer. This week, on this trip, Rainier beckoned me from too many miles north, yet still allowing me to steal awe-filled glimpses.
An early morning conversation with two hikers, Joe and Larry, reminds me of friendships powerfully strengthened by the sharing of nature. So many of us share our love of the wild, sometimes solo, and, sometimes, if we are lucky, with family and friends. This conversation appeared as a shout out from somewhere beyond to confirm my belief that taking that extra minute in conversation, as in the Ripples, may just allow synchronicity of story to burst forth. Stories that would never be if we didn’t first start the conversation.
Larry and Joe met as young scouts in the Southern U.S., eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout together. As adults, Larry lives in Alabama while Joe found his way to Washington State, they have shared their friendship and love of wilderness by committing to a summer backpack every year since 1979. As Russ and I chat with Larry and Joe trailside, after a short introduction at Looking Glass Lake the night before as the duo made their way back to their own camp further up trail, talk gets deep quickly. We chat about the EPA Region 10 superfund safety and health plans I reviewed that Joe had likely written, and the co-workers he and Russ knew having both worked for CH2MHill. Not to leave Larry out, a chemist, he was thrilled to know he had encountered a geologist who could share some knowledge of the area. I’m afraid Joe and I tuned out of the earth science lesson to talk about a mutual love: writing. We could have talked all day, but eventually the trail called us back to continue our wandering. And it reminds me of my own childhood and hiking buddy, Karen – oh those excursions we have had! And I share your sadness – though I can’t know the depth – of the loss of the Chalet in Glacier by fire that holds so many of your stories.
Friendship. Wilderness. Acting on the little things that happen every day that simply wouldn’t be, if we didn’t pay attention. And as if on cue: that reminds me. Time to get back to that edit.