On May 15, 2019, I completed my 100th mile on the North Country Trail. This is my fourth year in a row accomplishing this goal. It may not be a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail (my son accomplished the AT last year and is currently thru-hiking the PCT); but for me and my 65-year-old body, it is a feat I am proud to announce!
To celebrate, I wrote the haiku and took the photo you see here.
The spring wildflowers are now raising their lovely heads above the leaf blankets that comfort Mother Earth with their gifts of scent, protection, and nourishment. This section of the NCT is one I’ve done dozens of times as it is nearest my home. It is mostly dry and hilly but home to trout lilies and spring beauties that light up the forest with hope. A trout lily is also called adder’s tongue or dog’s tooth violet. It’s Latin name is Erythronium. I like trout lily best as it not only describes the flower but also the leaves that resemble a speckled trout’s body. Did you know it takes seven years before a trout lily blooms its first flower?
But the thing I like most about trout lilies is that they are humble. They never face the sun. Even though they have much to be proud of with their lovely six-petal faces, they always look down at the ground. So, I like to think they have their heads on straight! They bow down and play homage to that which sustains them. They fix their eyes on Mother Earth. I shall always respect the trout lily.
As I connected with the forest today, one word kept creeping into my consciousness — family. I had just read my daily devotion that morning and the focus was on family. Not just our biological family, but also our earthly family. For we are connected to the universe as well as to our blood family. After all, we are made from stardust. Our minds and bodies react to God’s total Creation in all parts of us: mind, body, and spirit.
For instance, on my journey today, I smelled the heavenly odor of the pine tree plantation as I walked through it. Did you know there is a chemical reaction in our bodies that brings us a sense of calm and lowers our blood pressure when we walk amongst the trees? It happens because of a substance known as phytoncide. The Japanese call this phenomenon Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.” Phytoncide is especially profound in evergreens. As I hiked through the red pines I breathed in this gift from the trees and felt such a serene sense of peace that it brought tears to my eyes.
My 100th mile on the North Country Trail was a walk amongst family: the red pines, the moss-covered stumps, a mourning cloak butterfly, a partridge berry, a beaver den, tranquil tiny lakes, a hemlock guarded path, and a visit from a coyote (no I didn’t get a photo).
Family. Let us pay homage. Namaste.