Pacific Northwest Trail; mile 349

Sunday, August 18, 2019; day 29

A slugs greets me in the morning.

I examined my body. On the back of my knee streaks two wide, horizontal bands of bright red, adorned with three small blisters. Internally, the pain had much improved. Superficially, it appeared awful.

Again, I consulted the internet through Google. I reflected. I had done this to myself! I had kept the ice-packs on for hours against my bare skin. It was surely an ice-burn, some form of frost bite. The scarring was the exact size and shape of the ice-pack. I felt at once apologetic to the extreme nature of my remedy, and satisfied that it seemed to work. The pain upon mobilization had greatly diminished.

I packed up my things and returned to the Visitor’s Center to rest and write.

Some time mid-morning, a woman approached with the intention of donating books. However, the Visitor Center had yet to be unlocked.

“Well, I guess I will have to come back.” She said this to another woman, one who was about to lead a religious gathering in the nearby gazebo. I responded.

“Are you from here?”

The conversation began rolling. We spoke of the trail, of how she had lived in Metaline Falls for one year and had no idea that it was routed through there. We spoke of travel and adventures and of how time consuming we both found writing to be.

She sat down opposite me on the wooden picnic bench. Then, the conversation took flight.

We discussed Jack Kerouac and the beatniks. We spoke of writing, and how it can be difficult to be satisfied with or to share one’s work. I learned she was a poet. We discussed feminism, and how it has changed throughout the years. I learned of her spunky youth, rebellion, and anger. Young women today do not have the same struggles that were present at the start of the women’s movement. There was concern that we have lost sight of what her generation had fought for. We spoke of Carl Jung and of archetypes, the power of common symbols and of dreams. We spoke of existence. We spoke of Einstein. We spoke of God.

She sat closer, leaning in across the bench. “…then one day, I began to look at my waking life as if it were a dream.” She paused. She had a look of mischievous whimsy on her face. The energy was delightful.

She continued, analyzing the day of our meeting from the perspective of a psychoanalyst. In this “dream” she, in the role of the crone, was passing knowledge to a young woman who was also her younger self.

Tomorrow would be her last day in Metaline Falls. She was to move to another town. She felt that meeting myself–with my transient nature and enthusiasm for the towns beauty–could help her to appreciate the time she has spent there. She asked my name. She found the name of “Brooke” (in addition to being a term for a small stream, brook means to endure, or tolerate) to be very symbolic. Her name meant peacemaker, or blessed reconciliation.

I began to look at her as an aspect of my older self. I allowed my mind to dance and swerve and flip—to inflate and deflate and recalibrate as the conversation twisted and turned between dream and waking, perception and reality, symbol and archetype.

We both acknowledged verbally, the power and meaningful nature of our conversation; a conversation that began between strangers; a conversation that may stand to be one of the most interesting, playful, intelligent, connecting, and inspiring conversations I have had.

Then the Visitor Center was unlocked.

Upon her return from donating her books, she inquired of my website. I told her. I asked her if she would remember. She said she would. We hugged and said goodbye.

What an amazing woman.

I returned to my work.

Later, she returned. She had forgotten the website. We wrote down and exchanged contact information. She presented me with beautiful gifts, three of her poems. I was so very inspired and grateful. She drove away.

The sun began to set. I packed up and moved to a bench near a faucet, to fill up on water. A conversation began with an older woman and her tiny but quite vocal dog, “Bear”. They sat at a neighboring bench.

As I bandaged my knee, we discussed patience and taking care of one’s self. We discussed healing–both spiritual and emotional. She had come to Metaline Falls to heal, following the death of her mother. She told me that parents are “gone before you know it”. I think of death. I think of the great shift in existence that death of a loved one must jar for the living. I think of my family; of how, little I see them. I promise myself that I will take more time to honor familial love.

The women asks if she might pray for me. I told her that I would be honored. She held my hand. She asked for my safety. In the end, as I put on my pack and walked away, she said “you’re gonna make it, honey”. In my heart I knew this, I just wasn’t quite sure what “it” was.

I followed State Route 31 along the Metaline Falls Bridge, which crossed the Pend Oreille River.

I connected to Boundary Road. The road hugged the mountain, curving sharply and frequently. There was no shoulder. I felt unsafe.

I considered the statistics. There were likely less cars at night. What one expects to see (or not see) can be just as powerful as what is, however. No one was expecting to see a person walking that road at night. No one would anticipate the potential of hitting me.

I came to a large half-circle pull-out for cars. I decided to take it. It was quite sizeable, buffering a comfortable distance from the road. It even had a grouping of small trees and plants in its center. I moved to a flat space past the dirt lot. It was lightly wooded with a floor of bark and dirt and leaves. It would do just fine. I spread out my tarp and mat and sleeping bag.

Just as I was transitioning, drifting from consciousness, headlights pulled up beside me. Everything felt hazy. The beams of light were so obtrusive, they raped my sense of security. I sat up.

A disembodied male voice asked if I was alright.

“Yeah. I am hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. This road just got a little curvy.” I was stunned. That was the response I managed. Looking back it was more information than I needed to offer a disembodied voice and glaring light.

Unable to stop myself, I called out an elongated, almost meek sounding “Thank-you!” as the car drove off. Was I thankful? That they had good will, yes, of course. I did not appreciate, however, the blinding beams of light cast upon me by their mechanical monster as I drifted in to sleep.

How did they spot me? It was not possible that they noticed me from the road. Maybe they had used the dirt lot to turn around. That must be it. That won’t be common.

The whole thing was very awkward and unnerving.

I fell in to sleep once more, with hopes of uninterruption.

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