I hike alone deep in a Michigan forest.
Light shines down through tangled
branches. The next trail blaze
is all I have to point the way.
Coyotes cry. Then quiet.
Frosty breath ebbs and flows.
It’s too soon for cold,
too late for warm.
The trail fades into leaves. I’m off
path, in untouched wilderness.
No blaze in sight.
I wait and listen.
Miles away from everything
and in the middle of it all,
I am here.
My slow walk turns frantic.
A panic claws at my ribcage. I search
for what I think I need. Fear zooms in
like a dark shadow deep in a lake—
it frightens my future,
breathes in my past.
I am in the same place,
lost because I believe it so.
The trees watch and know.
Solid in their trunks.
Loose in their branches.
The wind blows their secrets.
The whisper of truth beckons
like a woodpecker on my skull.
I give up and know:
Go the simple way.
I look where I’ve looked a hundred times.
There, an old tree I see anew.
Its blaze points the way in.
That’s the way out.
Leaves of the autumn of my life
crunch beneath my steps.
I cannot hear my breath.
Tweedles echo in a deluge of melody.
Distant warbles float as a mist.
Waves of crickets trill while tiny paws
rustle through yesterday’s shade.
When I am lost enough to lose myself,
nature’s symphony floods in
like fireflies in a forest on a summer’s eve.
If you knew me, you’d know
I live in endless wander, a drifter.
of a thousand wishes
is having none.
When I stop.
And I hear it all.
The best part of life… It’s when I’m lost.
Photo Above: Looking Up. Captured in the wilderness of Michigan’s upper peninsula in October 2021.
While on two separate hikes (less than a week apart) I got lost deep in Michigan’s wilderness. No phone service, no gps, no compass. The poem above was written after the first time I was lost, in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness. The experience was one of the most touching of my life. At one point I surrendered to the reality that I might spend a night in the forest, and then out of nowhere: there was the way. Six days later on a hike in Pictured Rocks National Seashore I wandered more than five miles off course before I wondered if something was amiss. If it weren’t for a local backpacker that pointed me in the direction of the trailhead, I might still be out there 🙂 The photo above was taken on the second hike. Looking back, I realized that on both hikes I was swimming in a pool of presence, wonder and awe. Hours passed that seemed like minutes, I was drenched in the beauty of nature, and I just walked. Some might say I was lost, and some might say I was exactly where we all dream to be.
My next small group exploration begins on February 15th. We inquire together with no expectation to ‘get something’ or find answers. Yet, it is guaranteed you will get something… and your experience of life will shift as we dabble in the unknown with curiosity and wonder. We meet weekly live on zoom. The group usually sells out well before the start. For more info and to book your spot: Coddiwomple Group Program
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You never cease to amaze me. I marvel at the depth and transparency of your words
I have no idea what this means but this line jumped out at me – “The freedom of a thousand wishes is having none.”
Thank you, John. I’m sending lots of love your way!
And Gillian, my heart is smiling. If it jumped out at you… something is there. It seems we
only recognize what we already know.