I once fell in love in a land of myths and legends. A place where salt air spray swirls with thick-trunked mango trees. Fresh rivers bubble rainbows, falling to pool in eddies held by the scent of wild ginger flowers. For thousands of years, people have sipped from these waters and walked barefoot through the fruitful forest.
Rex and I, we drank from crisp springs spouting through thick moss and funneled the nectar to our lips with a Ti leaf. At night on the bluffs by the sea, we’d make wishes on stars while he played guitar, singing songs and watching the waves glow silver in moonlight. When it was time for sleep, we’d follow the path to our riverside camp, guiding the way with one flashlight.
This place, that love, it is my own folklore. A tale of how the winds whispered through the guava that this man would be the father of my child. How the story would unfold over three years, through two trips to India and at least five break ups (and reconciliations) before our son actually wove into the telling.
This place holds my family legend. As does the eleven miles of rugged trail that threads to reach this haven. The initiating pathway that strips the excess from the soul. Baring body, heart and mind in order to be worthy to walk among the sacred. The last time I walked its entirety, I was thirty years old and five months pregnant, committed to hiking in one more time before the baby came to change my life forever. The moment my soles stepped upon the path, I knew all would be well.
That’s the first time Jeb and I hiked that trail together. Deep coastal oxygen filled my bloodstream and a joy emanated from the baby in my womb. Eleven miles and four and a half hours later, I was dipping in waterfalls and napping in the sunshine on a warm rock. It was on this same journey that I felt my child move within me for the first time, as I pressed my back to the land and watched the stars. He loved this place too.
That was over seven years ago. The family that was seeded in mountain mist and music became fractured. There were diapers and groceries. Lost dreams and broken promises. Longing, disappointment and eventually, resign. But separation doesn’t mean the end to pain. For years there’s been a quiet edge we’ve walked, as we’ve tried to reconcile the loss. Jeb has been the physical reminder of a magic and a love that we once shared. An essence that can feel so lost and foreign.
Over the years, I’ve hiked portions of the trail with Jeb, the first time when he was three. But not since he was born have I made it back to the lore that lives eleven miles in. Though Rex has traversed that course over 200 times in his life, it’s been at least 10 years since he’d set foot upon the path. Never had our family hiked it together.
Following a thread, a whisper, some kind of intuition, I suggested that the three of us hike in the first two miles of the trail. Rex was a surprising easy yes and Jeb was enthusiastic. So yesterday, with 70% chance of rain and a backpack full of PB&J, we stepped upon the healing trail.
The depth of what was experienced still percolates. Softness patted with every step upon the path. Wordless touches reverberate and ring. Jeb’s movement between us, offering periodic hugs to each throughout the day. Exclaiming between the switchbacks, “I love my dad! I love my mom!”
We ate pineapple on a boulder at the river mouth. Watched whales breach in the ocean and saw dolphins spinning in a huge pod.
Jeb scaled mountains that have taken down a grown up. So inspired, he pushed us past our two-mile mark to trek further on to four. Upon our return the rain clouds gathered, soaking us on the downhill as we sloshed through puddles. Wet and slipping through jungle mud, our whole family was smiling. We were happy and in our element, moving down the mountain and across the river with ease.
Eight miles (roundtrip) later, we emerged from the trailhead and went straight to the salty lagoon where we sighed into lapping waves, rubbing the dirt from our bodies with the sand. We toweled off under the trees and put on dry clothes. Rex exclaimed “I feel better than I have in years!”
The lifeguards packed up to go home. The tourists fumbled through their rental cars in the parking lot. Jeb and Rex and I walked on wet pavement back towards my car. Jeb still hummed one of the little tunes that had been spilling from his throat all day. There were pruned toes and Rex’s back was a little sore -“I must be getting old!” But no one was complaining. We were all just happy and amazed.
So the legend continues, this weaving of the tale. How this sacred place holds my family – a connection all our own, one we are still learning to understand. We touched peace in the mountain path. Breathed in molecules of ease as they dripped from rain-soaked banana leaves.
I hear my own words to Jeb as we were there sidestepping through slick mud. “There’s no hurry, love. Take it one step at a time. And just let the trail hold you.”