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issue #10 A Very, Very Long Walk
Finding a wellspring of words in the wilderness
I'm currently sitting in a small side room of my family's cabin in Front Royal, Virginia. The weather can't decide what it wants to do. Just a few minutes ago, the sun was shining, and I watched birds splash in the little stone bath outside my window. Now, fog is creeping up the mountain, enveloping the trees and their fresh spring growth, and a few cold raindrops just smacked my window.
The cabin is just a mile off the Appalachian Trail (the subject of a previous post, and likely more to come), and my daily walks through the woods around the house have been bringing back memories and reflections of my time backpacking on that gorgeous wilderness path. For readers who don't know, in 2018 I set out to thru-hike the A.T. (thru-hike is a fancy term for hiking the entire trail). While I didn't actually complete the entire trail—for reasons I'll elaborate on in future posts—I ended up walking 1,300 miles, from Georgia to New Jersey, over the course of 95 days.
That experience profoundly shaped me in ways too numerous to count, though I'll make an effort to do so on this blog over time. If you’d like to see a slightly expanded version of this post, I have more photos and poems on my website. But today, I want to share a particular creative process that was born out of the long miles on the trail and the solitary nights in camp. During the journey, I discovered contemplative poetry as a way to both examine my internal landscape and observe the beautiful wilderness around me.
I've been a fan of Asian poetry (and in particular, Zen poetry - here’s a book recommendation) for years and used to ground my photographic work in the mood and subtle language of famous poets such as Basho and Ryokan, just to name a few. During my time on the A.T., I experienced the spirit of that writing style firsthand and found that words came to me naturally and unexpectedly as I spent months traversing mountains and valleys, sleeping outside, and integrating with the land.
I wanted to share a few of those poems and accompanying photographs as the subject of this post. I have a book in the works from which these were selected, and I'll share more about that in the future. Perhaps these simple, meditative words will inspire you to seek a few quiet, reflective moments of your own… maybe even outdoors. Or, perhaps just as rewardingly, in the vast wilderness of your own mind.
“Today my mind
Much farther than
The length of the path”
On the path
Even the rhododendron
“In my morning coffee
I see the rain and streams
With every sip
When the ripples calm
I see the trees”
Here on the sunniest
Of days when
Mountain laurel blooms pink
Do storm clouds
Brew in my mind”
“Eighty seven days
Following this path
Though the woods
The bandages on my feet
Everything feeling a bit
I hope you enjoyed this issue of I Think I’m Tripping! I’d love to know your thoughts on it - did you enjoy the poetry, and would you like to see more? It would mean the world to me if you would consider subscribing to this newsletter. I’m sure my time here in the Virginia mountains will stir up more memories to share, and I’m excited to see what comes up. Until then, take care friends. ~ Matthew
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