August 20. I smiled when I saw John on the other side of the West Branch of the Piscataquis River on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. He easily waded through the 18″ deep water and crossed the thirty foot width of the calm river to meet me on the south side. I paused my search for aquatic animals clinging to the undersides of rocks in the shallow river bank to greet him.
“Hi, Regina! What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m a stream monitor back at home in Atlanta, and I’m curious what lives in the water here!”
“That sounds fun! What are you finding?”
My smile spread to my heart at his question. This hiker whom I had met a couple of days before in Monson, Maine, was interested in sharing the fine points of Nature exploration. We stayed a little longer turning over rocks, oohing and aahhing at stonefly and mayfly larvae, put our hiking shoes back on, then walked south together on the trail.
That’s a memory of my first visit to this spot on the A.T. in July, 2007.
Today’s visit, eight years later, lights me up with joy, calling to mind the relationship journey we have traveled since that first time “Hiker John” caught up with me on what I had planned as my solo hike of the trail.
After that meeting, we had continued on our coinciding solo journies, meeting by chance at shelters, trailheads, and rest stops for the next 300 miles.
Today, my heart swells to restage that prophetic crossing and greet my hiking partner with the grateful realization that the doubts I’ve had about marrying him may have indeed been quelled by his generous willingness to be with me as I really am and my willingness to explore my doubts with compassion, honesty, and Radical Forgiveness. This journey on the Appalachian Trail is meant to bridge the gaps in the sections we walked together on our 2007 thruhikes and gain clarity about embarking on a future together. Crossing the Piscataquis is a bright spot in that picture!