The man soldiers beneath an overstuffed backpack
towering above his head. Oblivious to the sultry
mid-morning sun, unaffected by sweat dribbling
down cheeks grayed by a closely-cropped beard,
lost in sounds emanating from white earbuds,
he is not a familiar face encountered on my jogs;
not a walker, fellow runner, poop-picker-upper.
I pause mid-stride to raise a questioning eyebrow.
When I hear wilderness training, I remember
a 44-pound forest-green backpack that included
a Dutch Oven so the girls could bake their first
pineapple upside-down cake over a campfire;
rain tarps to stretch between trees at night--
knowing on clear nights, we would inch our bags
from beneath the tarps to sleep under the stars.
And the moon. Especially the moon.
I remember ascents up rocky trails,
finally reaching that place above the tree-line
where the air was crisp and clouds floated below us;
where the earth seemed silent, peaceful, divine.
Such a long time ago.
Today, there is no pack on my shoulders
and yet sweat rolls in rivers down cheeks
the color of Ida’s red as I ponder my mortality,
my husband’s, mother’s, and the choices
that braid our lives together.
The hiker asks for what am I training,
and to his surprise and mine
I reply, life.
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