Nonfiction / Self-Help / Spirituality
Date Published: February 14, 2022
Publisher: MindStir Media
During the 2020 pandemic, one thing held true: Scores of people headed out for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) as if being in the woods, immersed in beauty and mystery, immunized them against an invisible enemy.
The AT became a hospital for souls locked up in quarantine, needing to breathe, stretch, and be nourished by the earth beneath their feet.
For decades, the AT has been a sanctuary for seekers, the tired and the lost; those hungry for renewal, the broken and the grieving; and those who want to face and answer questions they have lugged around with them in invisible backpacks. Questions like, what is next for me? Is there a God? Should I live or end it all? How can I liberate my life from what weighs it down? How can I forgive God?
This book pays tribute to those who dare such a grueling and soul-satisfying adventure. It tells the tales of those on a pilgrimage through insightful conversations and encounters, exploring and revealing what angels the hikers wrestle with in the wilderness who call out to name them again. This collection unveils the spirituality of any such journey in
sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-wrenching portraits.
Tales from the Trail explores what it means to be human.
“So ISO,” I asked, swallowing wine like milk, “did you find what you were ‘in search of’ on the trail?”
“Did I find what I was looking for? Yes, but don’t ask me to define it. Being on the trail was a transformative experience,” he said, adding that he had given his marriage another chance, but he wasn’t convinced it could succeed; some truth was missing… His voice grew more silvery the longer he talked as if his tongue was dipped in moonlight, shedding light on the darkest places of life itself—rejection, reinventing a life, belonging, where, and to whom.
“You know, there’re a lot of people out on the trail with the trail name ISO,” he said.
“Really? My question is—can they find what they are in search of if they can’t name what they are in pursuit of?” I asked.
“Interesting question. I think they’re looking for a purpose beyond survival. People hike the trail during a mid-life crisis as a means of escape, but the reality is, you have to deal with everything you’re trying to escape while you’re out there. I found I was having eighty-hour conversations with myself, all day, every day, and these conversations allowed me to understand that the things I had, my possessions, had no bearing on my happiness. Possessions mean nothing—I had every material thing I needed in my pack: food, a change of clothes, water, a tent. What I needed was a connection, was family.”
ISO paused to pour more wine into his cup, then took a sip, gazing out into the trees across the street. “I met people on the trail I would never have met otherwise. I met a truck driver who was so happy, a family man. I would’ve traded everything I had built out of my life in an instant to have what he had. I made in one year what he made in five years. He’s a lifelong friend now living here in Pennsylvania. I came to understand what’s important and what really makes a person happy.”