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  • Writer's pictureMicah M Rodrigues

The Calling.

I’m being called. And not by my kids (at least this time). But rather something greater. Something that gives me butterflies to think about and something that I am afraid will take me down a road resulting in changes. I might change, and my relationships might change. My feet may no longer be ‘pretty’.

Drama aside, what I mean is that I am being called to the great outdoors. The trees, the sky, and the quiet are calling to me. The pull is strong, like biological clock strong. And if you’re reading this and have no idea what I am talking about, then I encourage you to stop reading now because the rest will not resonate with you either.

We covered this in an earlier post, but I love walking. I love walking outdoors, and after many a year of convincing myself that I am NOT an outdoor person, my mind, body, and soul decided to set the record straight. So I’ve embarked on a day hiking journey that has so far involved reading, Facebook Groups, shopping and map downloading, but no actual hiking.

My first group hike was hijacked by a sick kid. My second hike, a solo trek from Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake (Ontario, Canada) usurped by a nail-biting wait for a document that would require us to visit the Portuguese consulate (we are moving there next summer), which didn’t actually arrive until the next day (ruining my make up date). I have a new makeup date for Wednesday of this week, but considering it is Sunday evening and I am bedridden with what feels like strep from hell with a side of demonic menstruation, it’s not looking hopeful.

I have watched the sunny days of ‘booked’ hiking pass through my living room (or consulate) window and felt a profound sense of disappointment - that my feet are bare, my body seated, my new hiking gear still shiny with lack of use. I drink my coffee, and every fibre of my being tells me I am supposed to be out THERE.

If any of you have had a biological ticking of any kind (babies, marriage, etc.) you know the potential intensity of this. I have not felt like this since my body decided it needed my son, now 9, or daughter, now 8. And this is the part that scares me. Those two events, spurred by some deep desire, a need greater than my ability to reason with, were life-altering.

All the books I’ve read have told me this is the truth of any trail. Into the Wild, The Camino Letters, She Explores, and How to Suffer Outside - are all powerful stories of women who felt drawn outside and emerged on the other side of the woods profoundly changed. Granted, I am not thru-hiking the PCT and have no plans for tent sleeping, yet these stories have inevitably spurred me to question why I too feel drawn, whether or not I’m ready for that answer, and that I am sure I never want to have to pack out tampons.

The thought of day hiking, taking 2-day trips, then 3-day trips (cabin sleeping, not tent sleeping), and then thru-hiking the Camino at 45 years old (the big goal), makes me feel as though I am standing on a precipice. Once I jump, things will never be the same.

I laugh as I type this. We are moving to Portugal next summer. Packing up an entire life of memories, comforts, familiarities, and family and trading it in for an ocean view and the irresistible pull of a culture that really lives life.

Clearly, I’ve jumped before and with far grander consequences. So I am not sure why this feels different. Maybe because it comes at such an inconvenient time? Is it because the move I consider to be 'for the kids', while this would be 'just for me'? Hello, mom guilt. Do I really need to have tandem life-altering experiences? Why has my Hiker alter-ego chosen NOW to reveal herself? I don’t know. Maybe moving to Portugal, opening that proverbial can of worms - the willingness to embrace opportunity, change and adventure - was exactly what she needed to show me what I needed.

The fact of the matter is, at this exact moment, I have no idea if any of this is true. I am sitting in bed, surrounded by soft, downy pillows, in a leisure suit that feels like it’s made out of hugs. My feet are up, soft and supple in their non-hikingness. There is rain outside, but I am listening to it through my window, not through a hood as I plod my way through a trail. My body feels wrecked and I am pampering it with tea, junk food, and as much Advil as I’m allowed, not walking over stony juts and trip inducing roots with no Advil in sight.

There will be no life altering benefits if I actually can’t hack it on the trail. And herein lies the other part of this call - I feel a profound desire to challenge myself, to find out exactly what I am capable of. Perhaps this is an element of aging. At some point you look at the stories you've told yourself, the stories people have told of you, and the roles you’ve played throughout, and decide which are true. This is the mid-life crisis, not with corvettes and pretty young things, but with reflection and reconciliation. The other side of this is finding out who you are and just as importantly, aren’t. Both can result in an embittered ex-spouse. Both can be irreversibly damaging. I do not plan on having an embittered ex-spouse (not that anyone actually plans that), but I do plan on revisiting some of my narratives, red pen in hand, in case a rewrite is required.

I just may find out that writing in bed while sipping tea is the ‘real’ me. That I am not cut out for peeing in the woods or the intensity of self-reflection found in the solitude of the trail. I may learn that my old-before-its-time back (osteoarthritis in my spine) cannot withstand what I intend to put it through, or perhaps that ankle that twisted 20 years ago and was never the same will be my Achilles heel in the realm of the woods. Or, as my son comes upstairs and beseeches me to go downstairs so that ‘we can all be together’, perhaps I will learn that my dreams are too selfish in the context of my family life. Maybe I don’t get to get up and go just because I want to. Maybe the prep and stress and state of the house when I get back will overwhelm whatever feelings of peace and harmony I discovered while out.* But this brings us back to the beginnings of these writings. I am being called. And answering that call seems of paramount importance. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that it feels essential to my future self. That in doing so, I will discover something necessary to who I am meant to be.

And it just might be that I’m indoorsy. I may have to come to terms with that. Or, perhaps in trying to get lost in the wild, I will actually be found.

*I realize that this shouldn’t be an issue, but we all have different family dynamics, and mine is decidedly mom-centred. My husband is a great father and loves his kids, but fear and a slight patriarchal bend meant that he did not do much, if any, of the heavy lifting as our kids grew. Terrified of taking them out alone, he simply didn’t. Now when solo, he gets easily frustrated and overwhelmed. Not great with changes, stress, or multitasking, things fall through the cracks and lunches are thrown in backpacks wrapped in saran wrap. The result is that while my kids love him, they are most comfortable, most happy, and most secure with me. Add to that a child with slight anxiety issues (my son), and you have the perfect recipe for kids who melt down when I try to eek out some alone time and a husband who balks when I ask.

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