Friday, March 7, 2014

133. Time Roots

It's March 7th, 2014: the one year anniversary from the date that I started hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I have heard a lot of older folks say that after a certain point in our lives, everything starts blurring together. And though I know I am still quite young, I can say with 100% certainty that they are correct. I lived 5 years in New York City, but I have no idea when certain memories there happened. The older we get, the more difficult it may become to place certain incidents. Were you 26 or 33 when that weather blimp crashed in your backyard? Were you 45 or 57 when your cat somehow managed to catch and maul a wild turkey? WHO KNOWS.

After a certain point, once we've crossed the invisible border into adulthood, it's like ending a cross-country marathon by jumping onto a treadmill. The marathon had all of these exciting visuals and emotional milestones, and you could quantify how far you'd gone very easily. Whereas once you're on the treadmill, you keep moving but everything stays the same. You might have a parade of different people using different treadmills next to you, they'll all smell different but they'll all smell funky, and it all becomes a blur. You might have a little digital read-out of your mileage on the treadmill, but you start to be suspicious of what the mile counter is reading. 30!? That can't possibly be right.

But I think I've figured it out. I've solved the equation for why our lives become a squishy blur after a certain point. It's because:


For your entire childhood and young adult life, every single year is easily categorized by your assigned year in school. That time you peed your pants in front of all those girl scouts? 2nd grade. What about time you forgot a bottle of strawberry milk at the bottom of your backpack, and it exploded all over you after you found it weeks later? 7th grade. First time you thought you were in love? Sophomore year in high school. It's a snap! I bet if you think of nearly any memory between the ages of 7 to 22, you know exactly how old you were in that memory.

After you graduated, be it high school or college, or after you got your GED or did whatever it is you did for school that's totally cool, years stopped being nicely segmented into clearly defined and named categories (freshman, sophomore, junior, etc). Lots of people have some memory of what it feels like to be a freshman in high school, or a junior in college. But there's not a solid idea of what it means to be 26, or what it means to be 43. It all just becomes "Your 20's" or "Your 30's" or "Your 30's Again" or "Your 30's Again For The Love Of God You're Not Fooling Anyone."

Time gets away from us. As my sister once put it, "One day you'll look around you and realize that all of your friends are married, have children, and for some reason, they're all teachers. And then you'll realize you're an adult."

I knew that hiking the trail would have a lot of impact on me, in ways that I wouldn't be able to begin to imagine. What I couldn't have predicted is how it has influenced my understanding of the passage of my life. Now instead of just my "20's", I have the time before I hiked, and the time after. It is a rooted solid tree, growing out of the middle of what had been an amorphous flowing river.

This has taught me that for the rest of my life, once every couple of years, I will need to go on some kind of adventure. It might not be a long-distance hike, but it will need to be something that takes up enough time to be transformative, at least in the sense that it plants another rooted tree in that river. When I'm old and wrinkly (and god will I be wrinkly), and my tattoos looks like a Salvador Dali painting, I will want to be able to look back through my life and have places and times to put my memories.

Hiking took me outside and above the passage of time, and through that, I was able to look down at the timeline of my life, and start to make sense of it again.

Happy Trail-iversary to Dumptruck, Apollo, Apple Butter and I (we all started March 7th)! We didn't really "meet" Apple Butter until much later, but we were all there on the same day!

At Amicalola Falls, March 7th, 2013
Much love,
Clever Girl


  1. I was exactly 32 and 4 months when my cat caught and mauled a wild tukey. Beth

  2. It was sometime in my late 30s that your sister and I were beaten by a swan while kayaking in Durham Pond. She could tell you the exact year. You and your mother, as you'll recall, had at the same time been neatly dropped into the middle of a pleasant nature documentary and were watching the mother swan sitting placidly on her nest from 2 feet away. Happy Trail-iverssary to all who started the trail this day, on whatever year...and happy trails to those beginning today. Love, Mom and Dad

  3. Ahh, so true!!! never thought of that, about schooling...