This morning as I was walking home from coffee I sang out my gratitude prayers as a warm up to ask for “impossible things” and I loved it.
As I thanked God/Universe for all the things that had been brought into my life I realized how easy my impossible dream was. My impossible dream – and I need to stop saying it like that – My biggest wildest dream – is to make a living off my art. To make enough money that I could support myself. What I’d like to do is have my art as a valid career and not a hobby. I just can’t see how this can happen.
As I sang my thanks I started singing about Peace Pilgrim. It’s the book where I first learned about the Appalachian Trail. I read that book and I wanted to hike the trail but I thought it was impossible, I didn’t think a trail that long existed any more. I assumed it was some sort of short lived hippie thing in the 70s when the book was written. So I crossed it off my list.
I read the book in the middle of winter, and in the Spring I found out that the trail does in fact still exist, it’s maintained, and people still hike it. Please forgive my Midwestern ignorance. I seriously had no idea about this trail winding from Georgia to Maine. Still, walking in the woods alone and figuring out camping gear seemed to be too inconvenient for me. I really didn’t want to make the effort to do it by myself. So, the fact that I had no friends who would ever hike the Appalachian Trail with me told me once again that it was…probably impossible.
There could be a slight possibility. I could meet someone and they would know about the trail and want to hike the trail and we would be on the same schedule and – well, it was highly highly unlikely but it could happen. I didn’t have the Appalachian Trail crossed off my to do list but it was towards the bottom, just above my desire to swim the English Channel.
Depending on how well you know me, you’ll know that I met my Appalachian Trail hiking partner in Homer, Alaska in the summer of 2002. We clicked instantly, one of the first things she did was invite me to hike the Appalachian Trail with her and we sat down and scheduled when to do it. I couldn’t do it in 2003 because I was going to travel Asia. I had just finished a season of commercial salmon fishing to save up for it. She couldn’t do 2003 because she was still graduating from college. So, two near strangers sitting on bar stools at the Salty Dawg in Homer, AK made a plan to hike the Appalachian Trail in the Spring of 2004.
I traveled Asia and the Middle East, I returned to the US on March 1, 2004 I took a train to North Carolina from Washington DC and we packed our bags. I arrived back in the US with $50 to hike the next 6 months. By then I wasn’t even worried about it. Half Full, as my partner became on the trail, helped me out immensely.
In the 2 years since we had last seen each other she had collected trail gear and had tried and tested everything. She had 2 or 3 of just about every gear. She had an extra pair of hiking boots that were almost my size. The outfitter store boiled them, and then beat them into shape and then after that I would tape my heels on uphill days and tape my toes on downhill days. Those boots lasted me 1100 miles. She also had a second sleeping bag which she let me borrow. Her mom had an extra rain jacket, it wasn’t light weight and hiker fancy but it was a windbreaker and protected me from the snow storms in the Smoky Mountains. I had my backpack from my travels, I bought a tiny sketchbook for $6, 10 pounds of rice for an experiment that did not pan out; it turns out you can’t soak rice in water for a day and really eat it…well, it is soft enough to “chew”/break down but how much nutrition does rice have anyway? The rest of the trail I traded massages for treats, traded paintings for shelter or hamburgers, and lived out of the hiker boxes. Hiker boxes are free boxes left in high traffic hiker areas, hostels have one, the post office for popular hiker drops usually does, sometimes an outfitter store has one. It’s where hikers leave old gear as they trade up or very often these highly planned hikers either pack too much food or freeze dry the same food for 6 months, ship to themselves in the mail and then realize they are sick of that food so they dump it in a hiker box and go shop for what they want. Someone kept leaving bags of dried lentils and I lived on lentils and rice quite well – at Neals Gap someone made me a pop can stove. There was a cooking set left in the hiker box, and I invested in some fuel. Yes, fuel was the only thing I needed to pay for and that cost nearly nothing.
I didn’t do the whole trail this way, just that first year, 1100 miles. And it wasn’t “my doing”. The trail literally provided for me. Novice hikers would leave their extra food hanging in shelters ( a no-no but I loved it), I got sun dried tomatoes this way, a super tasty peanut energy bar snack; beer and soda came from trail angels. Only one time I ran out of food but I was so close to a town. I only had to go maybe 8 miles. I think I had one last breakfast and no lunch. At about lunch time I was hiking along and a section hiker was puffing down the trail. “Hey, do you need some food?” He asked as I came past him. “Why sure!” I said and he handed over at least 3 pounds of gorp – a peanuts, raisins and m&ms mix. It lasted me a week and I was able to munch handfuls of it as I walked into town. On that same day I found on a rock one of my hiker friends had donated her snack to me, she felt so guilty leaving me on the trail to starve. I came into town and shared the gorp with her, feeling bad that she had missed out on her snack and I had this wealth of food.
This is the miracle of possibility and what is out there, what is available to us. We don’t earn it, I don’t really believe we deserve it but it’s the way it is. There is this unending supply of love and help and assistance. There’s no magic formula to emulate or ceremony to do. We just have to open up and accept. I do believe ceremonies help put us in alignment for this accepting feeling of belief and possibility but I see some people apply their ceremony as if it’s a magic penance to pay for what they want.
The universe has your back. Step out and believe. Step out and see what happens, wait for the possibilities. There’s one fine tweak to make when doing this. I think some people have this expectation of reward for putting in any effort when effort has little to do with it. I was a complete idiot for starting the Appalachian Trail with $50. I didn’t feel like a manifesting saint for doing it. The saint was my hiking partner who saw my failed rice experiment and shared her hot meals with me, who threw me a snickers bar because I hadn’t invested in buying cold food. This 7 or 8 days before I got to my first hiker box, her gentle kindness and compassion literally kept me going. She prepared for 2 years for this journey. She was the ant, I was the grasshopper. I’ve painted her several paintings, I always traded art for food for both of us so we got to eat free ice cream and cheeseburgers together. I probably gave her a back massage on occasion since that’s another offering I had but really, she helped me when I had nothing, at a time when I had knowingly walked out into the woods with nothing and put myself in that situation. The food she bought and carried for miles she gave away to the unprepared me.
I guess my message is, be an idiot and follow your dreams? It takes courage and bravery to do something big and scary but I think the real heroes we forget about are all those around us who help us get to our dreams, whether it’s by chance or someone else’s selflessness. Don’t forget that. In your gratitude be humble.
I’m falling back onto my old church beliefs on unworthiness but in a way I see it as so much more potential. I think it’s much easier to believe that we are unworthy than it is to believe that we are worthy, that we do deserve good things. Why not turn it around and say, look at all I have and have accomplished when I didn’t deserve it. How much more am I capable of when I still haven’t earned or deserved it? I think this awe and gratitude is easier to hold onto than the negativity that “I am worthy” can bring on. “I am worthy” might turn to “I deserve it” to “Why don’t I have this already?”
Good luck on your manifesting. Be a gracious receiver. Who do you like to give to? The person that always tells you it’s not enough or the one that clasps your hands in wordless gratitude with eyes shining bright when you gave them a quarter?
Today I am living in a temporary place that the internet is so bad I couldn’t even type this post up online. I will have to come back another day and make it pretty with pictures and colorful fonts. Today is just a bare message that I felt strongly about. I love you! If you made it this far, thank you for understanding.