Mount Willard, above Crawford Notch, White Mountains, New Hampshire
When I can feel the invisible hands of not-knowing-what-to-write grabbing me around the neck, I know it’s time to head up into the mountains. What is it about the lovely (and sometimes not lovely) distractions of normal life that muddy clear thinking? It’s something about my personality. In any case, I have now returned from a day and a half in Crawford Notch, and I have a first draft of an essay, and I have edited several articles and climbed a mountain, and I feel like myself again.
The essay I worked on considers T.S. Eliot’s The Four Quartets and the group of four in which I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail many years ago. This essay will appear in Appalachia journal’s Summer/Fall 2014 issue, which comes out in June.
Here’s one early paragraph:
I lay on a flimsy Ridge Rest sleeping pad next to my husband, Nat, in our tan two-person dome tent. We had started onto the Appalachian Trail in the tree-covered mountains of northwest Georgia a few days earlier. We were four of the hundreds of middle-class American pilgrims hoping to redeem the regrets of bad jobs or undevised business. We wanted to live in the present. We would walk with heavy packs of gear for as long as we could. We hoped for 2,100 miles, through the Appalachian ridges of Tennessee and North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. We had quit our jobs and sublet our apartments. No one but us thought what we were doing made sense.