Hiking a Poem

Start out not knowing where you’re going.
Leave your phone at home, or switch it off.
Pack only what’s essential.
Wear sturdy shoes well suited to your feet.
Don’t borrow someone else’s.
Bring trekking poles, maybe a friend or two,
for balance and support,
Be prepared for all kinds of weather.
Hope for anything, expect nothing. 

Follow your inner compass,
even if the needle points you straight
into wilderness where every mile looks like the last.
We pay closer attention when we’re lost.

Set your own pace.
Respect the heart of the land.
Avoid ruts. Take no shortcuts.
Laugh at your stumbles.
Appreciate the muck you must wade through;
the piles of dung you step in, too—
you’re not the only critter in this poem.

When the ground is level, keep your head up.
Notice the pelicans on the lake, the season of the trees,
the wedges of geese, the Pleiades.
When toiling uphill, keep your eyes on your feet.
Sink your body into the slog.
Don’t be in a rush to descend again.
Downhills can be hard on the knees.

Don’t ask if the poem is good enough.
Walk its path as a guest, with nothing to prove.
You’ll reach the end when you get there.
Pass through the place with such humility
and care, no trace of you will survive
the wild words you find, not even
your name carved on a tree.

Play notes: This poem can be traced to an earlier one, "Hiking the Loop." When posting that, I accidentally typed "Hiking the Poem." I laughed aloud. Wasn't that a title begging for a text? I drafted it during last week's personal writing retreat in the woods (which, by the way, involved a fair amount of hiking).