Labyrinth 6: Lone
Labyrinth 6: Lone

Labyrinth 6: Lone

I walked most of the John Muir Trail alone. The plan had been to hike with Brad, but I ended up with myself for company. Maybe Life made me for solitude; it provided a lot of it.
I was used to time alone outdoors. When Della became a stepmother, she insisted “the kids” must be sent away as much as possible. So each summer my dad paid for six-week-long sojourns at camp, sent me to my grandparent’s farm for a month, and arranged visits with other relatives. Della dropped me off at LAX the afternoon classes ended. My dad picked me up the day before school began.
Della also wanted breaks from me when I was living in her home. The school day wasn’t long enough, so she forbade me to enter her house until shortly before my father came home in the evenings.
During my first year with her, we lived in Minneapolis. Most afternoons, I leaned on classmates to take me into their homes. That usually worked but sometimes failed. During the brief autumn, wondering alone outdoors posed no problem. But then snow fell. The first time I couldn’t find a home to enter after winter was in full swing, I returned to Della’s house and told her there was nowhere for me to go. She kept the door locked until just before my dad’s car pulled up. It didn’t trouble here if I sat on that icy stoop for hours. What mattered was that she had the indoors to herself. I must have found other solutions after that, but I don’t remember them.
Once we settled in California, staying away got easier. A more outgoing kid would have hung out in a playground or a park, but I was too shy. I leaned inward instead.
I’ve not practiced Zen Buddhism, but I’ve heard that in some centers, the only instruction is: “sit”. If simply sitting counts as meditation, I did a lot of it during those afternoons. I’d spent part of the time walking in town or on hilly fire roads through coastal chaparral. For the rest, I’d find a secluded spot to sit until I was allowed to return. Books provided some company, but my daydreams took less effort and carried me to landscapes I could control. Sometimes I sat very near Della’s house, but in my mind I was far away and in charge of my fate.
So I was primed for solitude on the JMT. I hiked the first part of it with Rick, but we weren’t friends. As we tired of each other, I felt increasingly alone on the rocky trail. Then we got in a jam that ended our time together.
After that, I trekked in solitude. But this mountain walking it wasn’t like my afternoons in LA. There was no need for daydreams, because the scenery was more fabulous than my tread worn fantasies. Sometimes, my mind seemed to merge with the Sierra landscape. My inner world became part of nature, like the peaks, meadows, forests, rivers, and glaciers around me.