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Sabbath Day – SouthBound

June 24, 2016

This is the Sabbath, the place, the rest,
from which we go to work.

Wendell Berry, from A Small Porch

So … this post is about last week’s Sabbath day. The first part of my day was spent on a lovely day hike southbound on the Appalachian Trail. I began in Pawling near this fabulously old White Oak, the largest and oldest on the entire trail. My thoughts these day have been running to trees and forests, and this companion began an out-loud conversation with the woods and woodsy creatures.

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I have been reading The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It contains some of the most beautiful nature writing I have read, and has filled my imagination. When I say I held an out-loud conversation with the woods, I mean that I greeted the lichen (having just read about the complex and cooperative life that constitute lichen community) and discovered that their diversity spoke to me. It had been raining when I began my hike, but the trail debris under the canopy was dry. That is, until I reached a higher elevation. Nearing the summit of one mountain, and speaking with lichen, I asked one lichen community on a rock why they alone responded to the rain, curling their undersides upward to receive the moisture. And with that question in the air, I saw that the path two steps further on was wet. Here, alone, the rain fell to the forest floor – and the lichen told me so.

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The trail next took me past Nuclear Lake, named for a 1972 explosion that spread bomb grade plutonium across the water. Though it has been declared safe, no camping is allowed. What, me worry? (Seriously, I worry, despite this quite cheery blog post by a movie location scout. I mean, it’s what we don’t see that matters…)

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I started in Pawling, and ten miles later I had reached I84 within a stone’s throw of the Taconic Parkway and a look out over the Taconics and Southern Catskills. I will continue this hike another day. I met sixteen hikers during my ten miles, names I will check against registers in New Hampshire and Maine later this summer. At one shelter I read the names of hikers August and I had met during our backpacking trip two weeks ago. The first woman I met (on the shore of Nuclear Lake) greeting me by saying she was glad to meet a southbound because I must have cleared all the spider webs on the trail. Her trail name? Arachnid. I wonder why!? After lunch I was picked up by Natasha, another hiker and current program director at Holmes Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center, who shuttled me back to my car (and took the photo of me with the grand tree).

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Because it is Thursday, the afternoon was spent with August at Greenburgh Nature Center taking care of the goats, sheep , chickens, turkey and pheasants. Unable to stop walking, I took off my shoes and walked barefoot for another 40 minutes (I’m guessing another very slow mile).


My evening was spent with members of the congregation at a Candlelight Vigil for Orlando, sponsored by The LOFT.  The LOFT is safe gathering place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and supportive community of New York’s lower Hudson Valley, located at Memorial Methodist Church on Bryant Avenue. Together, we remembered those who lost their lives at The Pulse, endeavoring that unspeakable hate be met with unstoppable love.

I end my day where I began. Amen, Mr. Berry.

This is the Sabbath, the place, the rest,
from which we go to work.

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