Unburdened

I just finished watching Tracks*, the story of the woman who crossed 1700 miles of Australian desert in the 70s with just four camels and her dog. I could tell within minutes of starting it that it would be dangerous, the temptation of Eve. The itch comes along every once in a while, to leave everything behind but a backpack and start walking. Often in spring. Often during the first straight week of nice weather. Even more so this year, now that my body hasn’t run in months, has hardly taken wandering walks all winter, has been wrapped in warming wool and kept inside, has been weighed down with baby and all of the extra blood and and fluid and exhaustion that accompanies the task of incubation.

This is when I tear through my home like a cyclone, paring down possessions, clearing out clutter. This is when I dream of the trails and wild places all over this country. This is when I am outside every day, fingers deep in the soil of my yard. I test the balance between allowing my body the recovery time it needs after pregnancy and birth and the need to put one foot in front of the other. My toddler only wants to run these days, a trot or a gallop, climbing, jumping, thundering across wood floors and racing down dirt roads, and I feel the same. Strap the baby to my chest and go.

Six years ago this month, I dropped off a boy at the foot of the Appalachian Trail and ached to be the one shouldering the pack and walking north, rather than the one climbing back into my mother’s old minivan and writing my final college papers.

Five years ago, I was newly detached from a failed engagement, just beginning to plan a solo trek across North Carolina, hellbent on convincing my parents that I would be safe, when a different (and, in retrospect, rather important) opportunity presented itself, and I headed higher into the mountains instead.

We don’t need to go far fast. Find a route that allows for toddler pace. I just want to be out, away, off the grid. Sun darkened and feral-smelling. There is so little wilderness left here where the settlers landed four hundred years ago. On the dirt road we walk each day, my son runs each time into an undeveloped plot, up through a path of mulched leaves, and I want to give to him acres of that. I want land where you can’t hear cars or chainsaws or trucks or lawnmowers. I want him to see more than just neighborhood birds and squirrels, occasional rabbits, and the flock of turkeys whom my neighbor lures with corn thrown across her lawn. I want both of my sons to know wild places

The grass will always be greener, I tell myself. Be content with where you are, with the good of what you have.

I recognize that good. But I cannot be content with it.

*The poster on the link is wildly inappropriate…

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