There's a path I used to travel, nearly every day. Over the years it changed quite a lot. In those early days it was real primitive and you had to balance and leap, from rock to rock, to avoid the soupy, sucking mud spots. One time I carried a two person load all by myself, trying to impress my new friends and co-workers. I slipped, with an ill fated step, and crashed my knee into granite while spilling and breaking the entire contents, off my shoulder, into the boulders and trees. I learned and I was forgiven and I saw how temporary inconveniences can transform into the stories that mark our time here.
These days the trail that I tread can be equally unnerving. I'm looked to for answers but find so many questions. I talk to the old timers. Or, more pointedly, I listen to the old timers. I watch their eyes as the internal rolodex of an aging mind whirls through decades of information to compile cogent thoughts for my attentive ears. I realize they have forgotten more about homesteading than I will ever know. But they are patient and smart and don't pretend to have all the answers. For my part, I don't over pursue the question. Try, fail, try again.
We used to slog gear and food across those slippery rocks and through the trees to a wide and placid section of an otherwise raging river. Later in the day we would return by boat, juiced with adrenaline and ready to eat. We would gather around the fire to dry out and warm up and help each other cook. I repeated this routine through the seasons and across the states, up and down the rivers of the land. Sometimes we travelled in packs, other times alone. Surviving, living, trying, failing, trying again.
On this farm, I find hints and clues from a past with which I am not familiar. Wood and metal left to decompose among the trees, swallowed slowly back into the belly of the Earth. I clear spaces left cluttered with the past and make way for our future. For me, it is everything. This dance with time as it stretches away from us in both directions. We live and learn and we move on.
I returned, recently, to that space along the river. My river. It all came rushing back to me, in a torrent, as I neared that spot along the shore. The place where moose graze the shallow waters and eagles have long nested. I sat there quietly remembering the ghosts of my own past. The ghosts of people still alive, but moved on through time. I remember the smiles and laughter of friendship that we shared through those days. I carry it with me, as strength, into new days.
I have learned a great many lessons along this way. Some I have forgotten and had to repeat, others...I may forget later. I have learned that a path isn't worn by perfection, but by time. Those that came before and those that will follow. I watch them rise early each day and take a pace which is their own.
I listen to the old timers.