Monday, December 15, 2014

38. Going a Bunch of Miles Without Realizing It

Sitting down heavily on a log, I breathed a sigh and immediately set to the task of unearthing something to eat. The motion of pulling off my pack, swinging it around to the front and sitting down was so natural to me that it required no more thought than breathing. I found a ziploc bag full of decimated cheez-its, dug around until I found a spork, and started spooning the dry orange gruel into my mouth. Boy howdy it sure sounds appealing when I describe it that way, right? I swear it's delicious! It's like... eating cheez-its, but without as much effort, because someone else has already done most of the chewing for you! Nope. Sorry, not better. 

Anyway, as I was stuffing my mouth with pulverized cheese bits, Dumptruck pulled out the trail guide and pawed through it aimlessly.

"Hoffur haff we gun toduy?"

"Come again?" Dumptruck asked politely, dusting orange glitter off his nose. I swallowed.

"How far have we come today?" 

"Oh..." he looked back through the guide as I sporked another mound of cheez-it into my mouth, "Twelve miles?"

"What?!" A veritable fireworks display of cheez-it dust propelled itself out of my face in an atomized orange cloud. It's possible at that point I was doing it on purpose, just to see what I was capable of. Luckily for Dumptruck, he had side-stepped just in time, and watched the little orange snowflakes drift down through the atmosphere with mild interest. 

"But it's not even lunch time!" I exclaimed, looking up to see where the sun was in the sky.

"I know," said Dumptruck, a little awed himself, "how did we do that?"

For the first month or two on the trail, I was keenly aware of every single mile I walked. I sometimes caught myself counting steps, and I had to force myself to stop or go utterly mad. Several things factored into this sharp awareness of distance. One factor was the physical aspect of it: the simple truth of the lack of muscle. I figured out pretty quickly how far I could walk before I'd get sore, which meant I was always aware of how far I walked. The other factor was simply the new-ness of it all. My brain had little else to focus on, other than the walking, and so I checked the map far more often than I needed to. Time and distance were inextricably tangled up together.

But somewhere along the way, other things made their way into the forefront of my mind: my friends, the weather, an audiobook, laughter, heartache, fear, joy, and all manner of other beautiful things that can occur only to a physically active mind allowed to be bored. That and food. I spent a lot of time thinking about food. Eventually the distance didn't even cross my mind. We might go ten miles in a day or twenty-seven, and some days I was more aware of the distance than other days. But every once in a while I'd suddenly check in with myself and realize that I'd been walking pretty darn fast for hours without really even noticing it at all. 

I know I've written a lot about how the experience was so much more meaningful to us than the distance itself. But now that I live in the regular world again, I really appreciate how truly rad it was to be able to go so far without even realizing it. Unless I make a conscious effort to run, I probably only walk maybe a quarter of a mile in a day without really noticing. That means in order for me to walk twelve miles without realizing it, I'd have to go TWENTY FOUR DAYS before it happened. When I was hiking that could happen just in a morning.

And that's pretty darn cool.

Love,
Clever Girl

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