Madison and Adams seen from the Diagonal Trail in Randolph, NH

I retreated to Randolph, New Hamphire. For two weeks. I wrote and edited chapters of my next book, Libertarians on the Prairie. I revised and printed out. I revised again and printed out again. I looked at Mount Madison and Mount Adams, visible from my writing table. At around day ten, I encountered a headwind in my mind, and I could not think about my book. So I went into town for breakfast and began driving around rural Shelburne, where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 2 shortly before the Maine border. Three thru-hikers (hiking from Georgia to Maine) were hitchhiking, and I picked them up. They had no packs with them, but I knew from their disheveled states and aroma that they’d been on the trail since spring. Turns out the owners of the hostel to which I was driving them had already shuttled their packs for them. I remarked that I had been a thru-hiker, and realized just after I said it that the trail experience has changed since half my life ago. We had to carry our gear with us all the time, and we never gave it to anyone other than our parents (two days in New York, one day in Connecticut). I mean no criticism. I just mean that my experience and theirs no longer match. It also hit me as we talked that I thru-hiked the AT so long ago that it must have been before this young woman and two young men had been born.

I felt—not old, but outside of current experience.

I parked at the AT crossing near the Rattle River. In my Crocs, I hiked in about a mile, purposely ambling. Not rushing. I listened to the water. When I stand for several minutes by rushing water, harmonics come to my ears. Then I drove back to my writing table and worked more on the book, but I knew that it was almost time to end the retreat.

I would emerge back at home, where nothing seemed the same because I’d brought the best part of the retreat home and left behind the worst part, that is, the doubting voices and the odd feeling of irrelevancy I got when I gave those three a ride.

Welcome home. And the books going very well, thank you. My deadline’s coming up.

Thank you, North Country friends

While I was away in New Hampshire’s North Country, I talked and sorted out ideas with Sally Manikian, Rebecca Oreskes, and Doug Mayer. Neighbor Ruth Uland read and responded in helpful ways to my introduction. My husband, Nat Eddy, came up the first weekend and provided companionable silence and support during a very long session with a printout. John Phinney, my landlord, provided the incredible setting where I worked and retreated. And my dog, Talley, listened to me read out loud from Time and the Art of Living yet again; to you, woof.

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