Patty reminded me of some very important points about being a family member of an AT hiker - the good things!
As we participate in their journey from afar, we are being introduced to a whole different side of life. She reminded me of how much fun it is to talk about our sons wherever we go. How satisfied we are when we find new kinds of trial mixes or good healthy dried fruit - especially at bargain prices; how we make lists of items to spice up a mail drop box or add to their calorie intake - very important right now since they're burning 6,000 calories a day.
I need to keep these good things in mind more often than my worries. Because of Jeff's (Loner's) decision to walk the AT, I'm learning so much more about America, taking pride in it's people and character, as well as being newly awed by its grandeur and diversity. I'm learning about the ecology of our country and how we have done harm, but also how many men and women have, and are working hard to find ways to preserve it, from the guy who picks up trash and packs it out, to our legislatures who pass laws to keep our natural beauty intact. Over the past fifty years we have protected thousaands of acres by creating our system of State and National parks and preserves.
I'm learning the flora, fauna and animals which live only a half a day's drive away and I'm able to see America through new eyes - all because sometime last year my son made the decision to hike the AT.
I'm meeting new and interesting people who are learning these things as well from our soggy, tired but ultimately enchanted ambassadors for our nation: the hikers of the AT who take the time to blog, take photos, and post videos so those of us who can't, or won't ever have such an experience can at least get a taste from the comfort of our couch or safety of our computer chair.
I'm fortunate my son chose to hike now, close to his 40th birthday in July, when technology allows me to share it with him, instead of 20 years ago the wait for a rare letter could last weeks.
Because I forget to write these things, it doesn't mean they don't matter to me or I take them for granted. Instead they are part of my everyday life now. It's as if I'm learning a new language, culture, geography, history, science and psychology of our country and the warmth and concern within each American all at once.
The Trip of Loner and every brave soul who has stepped foot on the trail has made me take more pride in America than any speech I've ever heard.
Hikers, nature lovers, wanderers throughout our public lands on foot are the true chroniclers of our nation. Without the rhetoric of politicians, the agendas of corporations, the petty worries and squabbles of a consumer-driven society, they see the purity behind the facade, the majesty of our mountains, the strength of the individual who meets nature as a follower or cooperator on an elemental level.
There is only the fog of fear to divert a hiker from the path, or the inability to trust his own unique instinct. Those who keep going despite four days of rain, falling apart shoes, eating cold food every day due to the ability to find fuel for their tiny stove will prove something to themselves about man and the stunning beauty of fourteen states over 5 million steps.
They are the true story tellers as they wind their way through the natural beauty of the mountains through the small towns of south, mid-America and New England - all encompassing different characters and cultures, but who as one united front prove over and over how people want to naturally help, give and care. We just have to be reminded to stop our everyday rush and the constant chatter in our brains to hear an old story told in many new and personal ways.