The Hollow Men

By Brandon Thrash

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a wimper

The eve of any great adventure always has a bit of an oblivious nature to it. Even if everyone around you seems to know what you're in for, whether it be from adrenaline, or naivety, or conscious ignorance, I think when you get this close to something this big, it's hard for it to register. Like looking up El Capitan in Yosemite or down into the Grand Canyon, it's impossible for your mind to fathom the magnitude of the object that is before you. On the verge of the greatest physical and mental undertaking of life, I have no feelings besides tranquility.

Not to get too deep into poetry and bore you all on post #3 of this blog, but as T.S. Eliot alluded, we are but The Hollow Men looking upon Death's Kingdoms. Numb to all that he faces, both Heaven and Hell. I made this reference drunk at Justin's going away party the other night, and have demonstrated my stubbornness by putting it in this blog post. In both cases, I expect it to land flat but can think of no better analogy than T.S. Eliot's references to the numbness before a great undertaking. I digress.

Tomorrow, Justin and I will arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park, step out of the car, walk 30 feet and turn around to nothing but an empty road. That is when we will start our adventure. That is when the numbness turns into excitement and fear and apprehension and joy. Everything that makes an adventure worth calling it by that name. But until that moment, I will continue to enjoy the peace and tranquility that I have rediscovered over the past couple weeks. It has been one of the most happy times of my life. And it's only the beginning.

Keys

By Brandon Thrash

As the time comes closer that I begin this odd and unfamiliar adventure, I find myself already becoming more reflective of my life and it's relationship to the world around it. I already find myself to be a more polite and patient person than three weeks ago. More loving and caring. Why is that? Has my return to the South already resurrected a little bit of southern hospitality that had previously remained dormant? Have I always been this way yet only recently had time to reflect on my personal growth over the past two and half years? For a number of reasons, I initially reject these rationalizations and focus on one key fragment of my life that has been the most defining over my time in San Francisco. Responsibility.

About three weeks ago, I went on a hiking trip with a quirky and random group of individuals. One of these individuals, John, lives his life in a way that would make most people uncomfortable. Blindly optimistic and dizzyingly spontaneous, John's life gives most people a kind of "life vertigo." Balancing on the fringe, but never quite tumbling off the edge.

It was John who first pointed out to me that I had an exorbitant number of keys on my key ring. I fumbled to explain away my reasons for having so many keys, and as I did so, I began to realize each key was tied to a responsibility in my life. Work keys. House keys. Car keys. All representing a responsibility to others or objects in my life.

As it stands, three weeks to the day later, I have exactly one key left (my parent's house key). When I leave for the trail, it will be my only key. My only remaining tie to the responsibilities of my life off the trail. Only responsibility to my family.

As I shed all responsibility to others and objects in my life, and I begin to further emphasize only responsibility to myself and my own happiness, I find that I am more patient, kind, and caring than ever before.

It takes a certain level of selfishness doing what Justin and I are doing. It would be a false rationalization to claim anything else. Over the next six months, we are responsible to only ourselves and each other. I think this is an important thing to note, realize, and accept as we head off together for six months of reflection and dialogue.

The question I ask myself and will challenge Justin with, is how do I retain the happiness, care, and patience that became so prominent recently when my life once again becomes loaded with keys?

I am comically unprepared

By Brandon Thrash

I was a Boy Scout. An Eagle Scout, actually. As an Eagle Scout I memorized, know, and believe in a number of guiding tenants and mottos that help me in my journey through life. One such motto is "Be Prepared." That being said...I'm not. Scoutmaster Kerst would be ashamed of me, indeed. I haven't read enough books, hiked enough hills, ate enough dehydrated food, or dug enough holes in the ground to relieve myself in to consider myself "prepared" for this trip in the least.

That's a long winded way of saying that I'm ready. It struck me today how ready you can be for something you are ill-prepared for. I say that I am ready because if I were to get on the trail today, I'd be mentally prepared to walk up and down hills in the middle of the woods for 6 months straight. I am ready because I've got a wonderful hiking partner that's done more than his part to be "prepared" for the trials of the trail. I am ready because I know that this is the right thing for me to do right now. I feel it in my heart and in my bones.

Over the next month I will be working hard to prepare. I'll be packing and repacking my bag, trying my best to shave ounces. I'll be handmaking a stove and pot coozie (whatever that is, you'll have to ask Justin). I'll be pouring over maps to figure out if and when I need to have food drops sent to me on the trail. All to be prepared.

More importantly though, I'll be working hard to ready my soul.  I'll be saying goodbye to a city I love. I'll be saying farewell to friends and co-workers that I have loved and mean more to me than they could ever hope or imagine. I'll be welcoming a newborn niece into the world. I'll be hugging and spending time with friends and family that I haven't seen in a very long time. I'll be readying my soul by filling it with all the love and joy that a man can save up before heading out with one of my best friends on a 2,000 mile walk through the woods.