That annual September trip to Pennsylvania starts in Virginia with a ride to Maryland then finally a ride to Bedford County. Seems like I always forget something for my stay in that old bunk bed…a pillow, underwear, phone charger…this year it was walking shoes.
I’ve been going for about ten years, and each Friday there, I climb the mountain behind the cabins. Because of the joint pain that has set in my knees and feet the past few years, was unable to make the jaunt last year. This year, things have improved. Have modified diet, lost a few lbs, been a bit more active and doing stretching and even a little yoga. I got in my car early Thursday with the goal of scaling that peak.
Clad in my no-support city slicker leather sneaks, I wound up at a thrift shop in Laurel, scrounging through the used kickers for a good pair of athleticals. Found a pair of black Nikes almost identical to the ones I left on the back porch back in the Old Dominion. And a nice score – less than $3 and they were barely worn. The “a-ha moment” > I went up half a size and it was a noticeable difference in the pain quotient. I wear arch supports…should have known to adjust up. Der.
Waiting for my ride, I walked through the woods outside the church a while and reflected on my chronic pain. It reminds me how much more people must have suffered in the past before we had good shoes, good medicine, better working scenarios….and how much of the world is suffering now.
Long car rides make me achey and that Thursday I had two each of 2 1/2 hours. A bunch of us met at our place, this restaurant on the Mason-Dixon line (the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign is in the parking lot).
Full of fish and potatoes, I slept pretty well on that institutional vinyl mattress + lugged-along sleeping bag. Friday noon I was able to find the path I’d cleared a few years ago and climb that mountain…feeling those first cool breezes of September in the clearing at the summit.
Met a new friend, a new hiking partner. Some good complaining, some good sharing, some good foresights come out of long, steep aching walks. “I’ll be better when this baby is born,” he laughed, clutching his midsection. Glad I could share, glad I could listen.
All we men get in a bunch of short strolls during these retreats, too. Going down the lane to the fish pond, the gravel path to the air-rifle range, across the little bridge to Ghost Mountain or just out in the fields to play catch, to play catch-up.
Some of us have known each other decades, some of us are recent strangers. Regardless of duration, I’ve been pulled aside or walked astride and been told some remarkable things.
Married men tell me they’re considering their former selves as womanizers, watching their daughters become teens and women.
Baltimore policemen shared with us their involvement in this past spring’s riots, confessing their love of the city’s citizens, saying we as men need to be more vulnerable, need to be strong in doing so.
I listened to guys racked with shame, weathering affairs, divorces and struggles with the directions of their sex drives gone astray. They want to be honest, to be clean, to change themselves, their world.
I’m amazed at these fellows who’ve experienced such loss in so many ways, the loss of family, career, health, yet they’re realizing we’re leaders, all these guys are saying, we have these positions of authority and we have to do better, we have to be more in community.
Saturday was a mudbog and I retreated solo to that old dark-lit gym and went through the equipment room, shuffling on the new rubber floor…shooting hoops (man does that rim seem high at this age), swatting hockey pucks, punting a kickball, pummeling a softball…keeping my feet moving in anticipation of two more long cramping rides that weekend.
It’s been a few weeks…I’m back home and waiting for results of another workup on this connective tissue drag. I’m on this slow rise of improvement and have to remind myself that not much change happens instantaneously.
Seems like my struggle is against my own body, for my own body, yet what has been building for several years is this feeling that’s going outward not inward. It’s a feeling of connectedness to the people who don’t take walking for granted, like I have for half a century… those who don’t have a safe place and great companions and food around most corners.
Several pastors have told me that pain is meant for us to do something with it. The endurance of it, the overcoming of it; those are things we can use to create and share and ally. I’m writing more again and doing my 2nd annual charity fundraiser CD; I suppose those are at least small steps.
Reflecting back on my most recent rambles in the Quaker State, I’m thinking of a verse the Quakers hold dear, Ephesians 6:12 > For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.