When I was starting to come out of the worst of my grief, when life overwhelmed me, I used to take a deep breath, let it out, then tell myself, “I am where I am supposed to be.” The ritual brought me comfort even though I don’t really believe that there are any “supposed to be”s. There just is “is”. And yet . . .
Because of an unexpected series of events, I spent the night in a town I had never heard of. The string of happenstance began even before the encounter between a peacock and the Amtrak bus I was in yesterday. (In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, a few minutes after I began my trip, the bus I was in collided with a peacock in flight, which destroyed the windshield. The poor bird died.) I would not have been in the bus except for a series of unexpected events — the woman I am going to visit offered to pick me up in a distant town, and the woman I was staying with so kindly agreed to get me to the station at 6:00 am, so that allowed me to take a different and quicker route than I had planned.
As things worked out, it wasn’t quicker (though the hours spent on bus and train remained almost the same). Because of the peacock incident, I missed my connection to Eureka. Antrak put me up in a motel. (A very expensive motel that certainly didn’t use the money to clean.) Amtrak also paid for a taxi to and from the motel, as well as dinner last night and breakfast this morning. All that was wonderful, of course, especially since it will allow me to see the scenery I pass through today. (If all had gone as planned, most of the final leg of this journey would have been I’m the dark.) But all those perks are not what gave last night its “supposed to be” feel.
I’m using my new backpack for luggage, and every time I put the thing on, I had to wonder once again if backpacking, even short distances was for me. And yet, whenever we passed a trail of any kind, I could feel the pull. I’ve always liked mysteries (though it’s really the truth finding I love more than the mystery itself. I like to know esoteric things that not everyone knows). And the pull of the trail is its mystery. Where does it go? What’s around the next bend?
So, after a day spent watching the world pass by my window and wondering what it would be like to be walking instead of being driven, I ended up spending the night in Martinez, in the Muir Lodge, two blocks from where John Muir lived.
That sure gave me pause!
John Muir was a naturalist, co-founder of the Sierra Club and was instrumental in the development of our national parks system. He is something of an inspiration to hikers, the grandfather of ultralight backpacking. And last night I found myself steeped in his aura.
Maybe I am where I am supposed to be. If so, then where I am currently supposed to be is on an Amtrak bus, heading for other places I am supposed to be.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)