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backpacks (cc 2005 Paul Gibson)

Preparing for a hike

Imagine your way through the good route / and also the other route.
By John Mercer
Summer 2014

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consider the season
in the spring, pack sandals for water crossings
in the fall, a space blanket for the unplanned night out

consider the route
imagine your way through the good route
and also the other route, the less preferred,
the one you’ll need when the first proves impassable

consider what to carry in your head
don’t listen to sappy music before setting off,
the sappier the music
the more you will resent your own brain
don’t worry about what to do with your head
your head won’t work after some hours on the trail

consider what you’ll pass through
know your trees, your ferns, your mushrooms,
know your wild flowers, both the garish and the shy,
know the birds by their calls,
and distinguish the chickadee from the white-throat sparrow
mind the oven bird
take joy in the winter wren,
your most tireless companion

and be ready, with the first step,
to give up control
and let the journey unfold on its own,
as it most certainly will.

let its accidents become opportunities,
let its challenges become triumphs,
let it enter your heart and inhabit you,
let it sanctify you,
let you and the journey and nature be one,
as you most certainly are.

This article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of UU World (page 19). It is reprinted with permission from Falling into the Sky: A Meditation Anthology, ed. by Abhi Janamanchi and Abhimanyu Janamanchi (Skinner House Books, 2013). Photograph (above): Two backpacks (cc 2005 Paul Gibson); photograph (front page): Backpack, detail (cc 2006 Polly Hutchison). See sidebar for links to related resources.

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