Gran's Apple Butter Blog

December 19, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Stronger Shoulders (7XII)

Chapter 7 – Stronger Shoulders

Like everyone else, Gran had made some tough decisions along her journey, ones she’d just as soon have avoided. Eventually, each fork in the road we ignore reappears, no matter how many times we think we snuck past it undetected. Gran noticed that whenever she took the easy road, the one that seemed to lead downhill, before long she’d find herself right back at that same fork, or at least one that looked suspiciously like it.

She could keep going ‘round in circles – that was her favorite option for a while. After all, we get to pick our trail. We can drive uphill or down, on steep, rocky terrain or a smooth, dirt-packed road. But when we keep choosing the same leg at that fork, we grow tired of the slant of the hillside, and the ruts in the road grow deeper until just making it around that circle becomes an unbelievable struggle. When Gran reached the point she could no longer bear the idea of the same old road, she’d chosen the unknown.

Yes, that path led uphill. It also went through some long, dark tunnels that were almost more than she could bear. All the stale air in those tunnels must have messed up her odometer, Gran said, or at least her depth perception, ‘cause somehow she felt like each mile in that darkness took her much further than it measured in the light of day. That more than made up for the few times she’d thrown ‘er in reverse, ‘cause in her bones she could feel it – with each turn of those wheels, she was nearing home.

Now and then as Gran ascended this new road, she’d come around a corner to find the most beautiful view spread across the valley below. A chance to breathe and soak in the splendor: Just what she needed after that long, steep grade. She’d pull over and stretch her legs, maybe peel an orange or a chocolate or just relax for a bit.

Sometimes she’d sneak in a little hike, just for the fun of it. Over time she noticed her body was responding to all this exercise, legs and lungs growing strong, back and shoulders widening for the pack she always carried. She realized she could carry more, walk further, faster, climb steeper grades than ever before, without even getting winded. That’s how she knew she was growing.

She thought her mind had grown the most. She’d gotten a little wiser along the way. She’d learned to pack her bag well, leaving everything but necessities behind. The further she traveled, the less she needed. That toothbrush handle, why, that’s an extra three ounces… forget that!

She’d also learned how valuable the rules of the hiking road were: “If you can’t pack it out, don’t pack it in!” She’d learned to quit asking others to carry her pack for her, and to stop saying yes when others asked her to carry theirs. In the end this only exhausted her and weakened them, until she’d realized it was best to focus on her own journey, her own pack.

At first when others had asked Gran to carry their bags, eagerly eyeing her broad shoulders, she’d complied, feeling a little flattered. Even after she stopped that, she’d tried sharing what she’d learned on all those trails, but that never seemed to work well either, so she finally gave it up. She felt a little sad about that, but she knew it was highest good.

What she didn’t know, what I could see from a distance, was that several hikers were watching her, how she packed her bag, trimming weight here and there, heaviest stuff in the bottom for balance, light things on top, water bottle handy, and a rain cover over the outside. They were watching how she picked her trail, how she sighted her line of travel. And they began to do the same thing, at least when no one was looking. 

Gran just kept doing her thing, following her own path. When she had the chance for an overnighter, she’d build a fire, pitching her tent when rain threatened, gazing at the stars when it didn’t. In the morning she’d break camp quickly and methodically, minding her own business, unaware that eyes were following her movements, hands rolling and zipping to mirror her own.

Somewhere down the path she’d look up and smile, surprised to see a familiar face. She’d nod respectfully, then turn back to her trail as this new friend passed, moving quickly along his way, just like it was meant to be.

Every now and then Gran would strike out into virgin wilderness, to test new ideas, new equipment. It didn’t always go well, she was the first to admit. But again, as always: stronger shoulders, stronger back, stronger legs… and so it went.

Starting next week – Chapter 8: You Have Reached Your Destination!
© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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May 10, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Right Packing (5/IX)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Life Journeys,Marbles,Packing,Right Packing — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 11:30 am

Chapter 5 ~ Right Packing
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Once we’ve cleaned out everything and everyone, we’re ready to start packing. Gran put right packing up there with right living and right conduct. Her first suggestion: Pack lightly.

Gran’s routine was simple – one small suitcase and she was ready for anything. Besides, everything we need is waiting at home, and along the road our needs will be met. Gran had learned she didn’t have to take her entire closet and a gold card. In fact, the less she took, the better her trip went. It’s like dancing – you have to be light on your feet to enjoy it, and that’s hard to do when you’re dragging around a ninety-pound suitcase.

There were a few things Gran considered absolute necessities, but they couldn’t be packed in a physical sense, so she’d take along a little bag of marbles to remind her of the things she couldn’t see. The big, beautiful, yellow shooter stood for balance. Authenticity was small but solid, a soothing lavender clay, and then there was the peppermint-striped one for integration. An old brown Bennington stood for responsibility, a cat’s eye for truthfulness, and four little Peewee foils for a positive attitude and the spirits of giving, receiving, and gratitude. These also came in handy if you ran into someone ready to knuckle down for a good game.

Why were these so important? Well, Gran explained authenticity and integration by pointing out the one letter difference between the words life and lie. Those words meant plugging that F in there and making sure our life reflects our truth.

That was one reason why she’d gone back to her natural hair color, deciding to grow old gracefully. At the time this felt important, although later she realized it really didn’t matter what color her hair was. If she knew who she was, she could dye her hair bright pink and still be Gran. But if she wasn’t sure of this, she could let those roots grow ‘til the cows came home, and the only person who’d be fooled would be her –the cows wouldn’t care one way or the other. The point was, her decision felt symbolic of the changes taking place inside. She was making a statement about who she really was – and that felt good.

As for responsibility, Gran said this one was a real doozy. She believed we each have to leave home base both physically and emotionally, cutting the apron strings that helped us survive when we were short people (as Gran called youngsters, so she’d remember they were people, too). Until we did this, and processed the changes it entailed, we wouldn’t be ready to start our next journey. Gran said it had to do with independence and taking charge of one’s life.

Sometimes we detach those strings from good ol’ Mom, then turn around and tie ‘em to someone else. Not a good idea, Gran said. Once we’re grown up, like it or not, it’s nobody else’s job to take care of us anymore. Gran knew how tempting this could be – she’d been there, convinced that someone should meet her needs. She’d given away her power, played the victim, the martyr, the put-upon – this had seemed easier at the time. And yet, it wasn’t. It only meant she had to learn those lessons somewhere further down the line.

And what about the rest of those marbles? Gran said their stories went something like this…

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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