297 days. That’s how long it’s been since my feet had trod the trail that’s been referred elsewhere in this blog as the Temple of Mud, Sweat, and Blood. Three seasons have come and gone without so much as a single footfall. Physical incapacity has kept me away from this moving meditation for months; fear has barred my way when physical pain no longer prevented me from returning.
I returned to the Temple of MSB this morning for a slow and cautious hike, as there is still months of recovery before I can contemplate running again. Today’s return was an act of sacred (but much dreaded) duty. Not wanting to think too hard about why I’d come back, I focused my attention on the trail itself and some improvements that had been made in my long absence. It occurred to me for the first time that I’d taken for granted the trail other than as it pertained to my own footsteps upon it. Someone had come long before me to forge a passable path through wild nature; other hands left trailblazes to guide the way; an unseen army works unceasingly to clear trash and fallen timber; a forest ranger frequently checks the area for anything problematic. Likewise, my ability to walk today has been the result of so many dedicated folks who made it their jobs to get me back on my feet. Though I was walking alone through the forest, I could not have claimed this space as my own without the work and assistance of so many people.
I may have entered the woods alone today, but it was not done as a individual acting in isolation. Avoiding this particular trail has been an act of cowardice and denial on my part. It is the place where I first met Sam. In the days since his passing, I have felt called there by his spirit. It is a call that I haven’t not wanted to answer, because I felt that I have failed him in this life. Michael ultimately pushed me to answer the call, by reminding me that, in denying Sam, I am failing to do the work that I’m sworn to do. Damn his eyes for being both correct and logical. In the end, Sam simply wanted to let me know that he has found the peace that he so desperately sought in life.
As I hiked out of the woods, I had a bit of an epiphany. While I have long described myself as a solitary practitioner, the term is a misnomer. As is the case with the Temple of MSB and with my physical well-being, I am not working in spiritual isolation. Ever. Deities, guides, guardians, gatekeepers, helpers, and human souls are all a part of the work that I do. Without the ubiquitous others, I could not do the work that has been charged to me. There is never a time in my work when other sentient beings are not involved, never a moment when interdependence ceases. Solitary implies that I am walking this path alone. While the path is my own, I am never alone in my practice, never wholly independent. Always, someone stands behind me, before me, or at my back, motivating me to continue this work. For every one of those individuals, I am grateful.
(This post was written as a part of the Cauldron Blog Project 2015 for the July theme of Independence/Interdependence.)