Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp
I have mastered the art of zen. I'm sure people have used other words and phrases to describe the meditative state I find myself in -- but for now, I'll call it zen.
Mentally, the first half of this thru-hike was brutal. I charged through law school in 2.5 years to give myself the time gap necessary to embark on this hike. I took advantage of spring break, but my summer and winter breaks were spent working and studying. After my last semester, I immediately dove into bar prep and for the 2 months prior to hitting the AT, I did nothing but study for the Illinois bar exam. Those were the most mentally intense years of my life.
When I hit the AT, I thought I could just turn off my brain. Just take in the fresh air, Kate. Enjoy the beauty of nature. Easier said than done.
For 2 months my brain went through mental-intensity withdraw. It was like a radio tuner in your car when driving on the highway -- speeding through stations, trying to find something to play, but finding nothing. I tried to just focus on the trees, but my brain wanted more inputs. It was used to doing 100 things at once and nothing on the AT could satisfy that craving.
Somewhere in Maryland my brain finally found peace. I began memorizing poems. I met new people on the trail and in towns. I stopped thinking about my life at home -- all the things I want to do or have already done. I learned how to control my brain rather than have it control me. I was able to just be.
I can't remember hearing a single bird during the first half of this trip. I don't remember hearing the wind or rain. I don't remember hearing the dirt crackle beneath my feet.
During these last few weeks, I've listened to my ipod a total of 3 times. Except for a few calls to family members, I haven't talked on the phone at all. I haven't even checked emails. I've just been listening to the birds...