I have been alternating between frenzied preparations for my hike, winding things down at work, elongating my lists, taking shots of vodka, scanning whiteblaze.net like an addict and complete zoning in front of the TV. The nervous energy inside me doesn't have anywhere to go and I've been very emotional lately. Saying goodbye is hard, even if it's only for six months. I find myself getting teary over the most minor of things, both happy and sad. Weeks ago I started saying goodbye to the geography, the beautiful red canyon I work in, the pink sand dunes and towering vermillion cliffs and the blue, blue sky. I was homesick for this place when I lived on the beach in South Carolina, and I have moved here three times. I keep coming back, and I keep leaving, too. But I am yearning for greenery in a bad way. I want bright green, wet green, the kind of green I saw in Oregon where the moss grew on roofs and asphalt. I know the AT has that. It's called the green tunnel, after all. I could use a break from the desert, as much as I love it here. My soul needs refreshment and renewal. The desert has dried me up, turned me fiery and harsh, like itself. I will certainly be back, but will I stay next time? I have no idea. I have no plan at all except to get a certification that I will talk about later.
I have spent the last two weeks saying goodbye to friends and I already had my going away party at the bar which involved almost no planning logistics and was extra fun for me because I usually prefer to drink at home, where it's cheaper and there's no need for a designated driver. I discovered that I still suck at pool, no matter how much or little alcohol I have ingested. Oh, and just before the party I got my hair cut super short, into a pixie cut. I cut all the color out and saw that I have a decent amount of silver hair. Yes! I get to have silver hair, not grey! Not that I intend to watch as it becomes all silver. I'm sure I'll go back to coloring when I get back from my thru-hike, but it's kind of fun seeing what my hair really looks like. My hairstylist calls it "mature" blonde. Haha. Anyway, a total stranger complimented my hair and that was reassuring. Not that I don't trust my friends, but they might avoid telling me if they hated my hair. Anyway, I love it, because it's so EASY! And I think it's cute and enhances my jawline. I may never go back to long hair.
I've had to say goodbye to a lot of animals, too, including my own pets. I started that weeks ago and I'm glad I did, but it's not enough. I will miss my furkids. They are my travel companions, my bed buddies, my own little family. I left the cats before, when I moved to the west coast and got them a couple months later, and when I spent six months doing animal rescue and care after Hurricane Katrina. But I met my dog after Katrina, a refugee from the storm, and I've never left her before. I don't know how to make her understand. She's so attached to me that I worry but I know she'll be okay. I hope I am. I'm taking pictures and videos of them on my phone to either make myself miss them more or feel comforted, I'm not sure which. My biggest thanks goes out to Jenn and Katie and Darryl who are taking care of them while I am gone. Without you guys I wouldn't be able to attempt this thru-hike at all.
I've known for a year that I'd be leaving this Spring. Some part of me has been pulling away, disconnecting, saying goodbye this whole time. I know that when I come back, even if I stay, it won't be the same. This is my home, as much as my home town. This is my family, too, the family I chose for myself. But I was struggling. I felt trapped and dead inside. I am a gypsy at heart and I had not wandered in too long, and it poisoned me. I hope I can find a way to have a home base, from which I can travel and return to, but I know now, I need to travel. I need to see and experience new things. I need to fill my soul and senses with variety. It doesn't mean I have to live as a gypsy, but I have to honor that part of my personality or I will become an unpleasant person to be around, or at least extremely annoying on Facebook. I find similar personalities in other hikers and backpackers and I hope to find some more family on the AT, people who understand this part of my personality. Maybe it's because I'm a double Saggitarius, or those Mormon pioneer ancestors or maybe there's no reason at all except that some of us are just born this way. I'm a wanderer at heart. I love to see a trail or a road stretching into the distance and follow it. I'm about to start the most incredible journey. I am so excited!