She looks back at me and tells me how bad or weird she is feeling. I've trained myself not to say much anymore though I still keep a tab on things in my head. How do I manage the pace of the day, her health, my ticker, and all the while making progress to Canada? It's a tough, tricky decision, none that many go through. There's many aspects I feel I've been doing and noticing from my perspective, from my line of sight, that may be lacking from her perspective, from her line of sight. I am listening but am I really absorbing what is so earnestly translated to me?
Her weight is getting drastically low. Despite the dietary adjustments the same atrophy occurs. Her body is eating itself. I look at myself and I feel fat, lethargic and bloated; I'm not working hard enough. I hug her and feel bones. Is she melting away? Yet we have to get to Canada. Is my arrogance blinding me to her personal needs? I know I'm opening myself as a target. I know I may get blasted for this but I know what I'm doing out here. I obsessively rack my brain on trail constantly trying to figure out what's wrong. I sometimes want that extra 2 miles so bad that I say nothing in regards to her laments. Must I push her to her limits for the sake of my selfish contentment? Then, I'll think: she's beaten melanoma; she's beaten a horrific car accident; she's battled through a nasty divorce, separation from her oldest son; she's beaten everything that's ever been in front of her. Why would an extra few miles beat her?
Maybe her soul and spirit need to catch up. Maybe her feet are moving too fast. Her writer's block is a product of her stress and exhaustion. I now know it's not because of her refusal to put forth any more words on a particular situation. The scene is flying by too fast for her. The idyllic information is swiftly moving by in a forgetful manner. Through the Marble Mountain Wilderness, amongst beauty so scenic, I tell her I want to feel nothing. That my philosophy of the wilds is to feel nothing. I looked at a blazoned peach and orange sunrise stifled by the ending blackness of night and my heart felt nothing. I couldn't even manage a smirk. She tells me she wants to be a tree; I tell her I want to be a rock, not of one to endure rather an emotionless one. Her eyes crinkle at my coldness. Only then I melt. But I do not show her. How do I change my nature? My only offer of consolation is to go into Shasta City, Etna, then Ashland for a brief rest, for some time off.
In the motel room in Ashland, I just want to escape. I put in my earphones to listen to music though I'd rather drink. She tells me that I've never done this before. I plug in and though the meaning of the song eludes the situation I escape to a place, a vision, in my mind that draws me away from here, now.
I've been staring out of windows lately looking at the faraway horizons of the mountains and trees. The contradiction lies in where I want to escape to is put off for the time being due to the lingering town stop and the unknown. We both want to be out there fiendishly, most desirably. I drift back to the pain of dropping out on the PCT due to salmonella. Stricken even before my start date, I still have a bit of tortuous residue lingering inside because I felt I failed, that something was psychologically wrong with me. How I don't want her to experience that, that feeling. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the influential demise of health. We're a team; I was hiking solo back then and I was ready to die for what I had dreamed for. What would I tell myself back then now? How can I make an objective decision when I believe in her so much? When I trust her so much? I take pride in my adventures in knowing my most important gear item is my head. To make sound, heady, and smart, rational decisions is of utmost importance. I know she trusts me to make them when I'm away from her on another adventure of some sort. Then why are things so fuzzy, so blurred when it is clear as crystal?
We've been re-hashing our goals. The hard part is what I 'see' and 'don't see' everyday. One second it is invisible, then the next vivid, like a bone popping out of the skin. I sure as hell do not want to see her get worse. I feel pent up and want to express things realistically without hurting her. I tell myself: This is a life decision and not a hiking decision.
The unseen fucks with your head and heart. I called it quits on the PCT only after I woke up lying on my back in the middle of the trail for the fourth time. The drastic 30 pound weight loss wasn't evident enough for me. If we leave Ashland and that happens to her I would never forgive myself. But the unseen. It melds in the mesh of reality. It lurks in the interstitial plasma of the heart, like a cobweb splayed up in the corner of a high, dimly lit ceiling.
I'm searching for an outlet, for the anxiety of not knowing is compressing my lungs. I cannot breath deeply right now, or exhale releasing the rigors of built up stress. The uncertainty is suffocating. She submitted test results for the unseen. But with systemic symptoms not going away nor with her condition worsening in a debilitating state I have a hard time believing what it potentially could be with her history. Also, I mean, for Christ sakes, she's still gutting out 30 miles per day. I've said it before and I'll say it again, ain't nobody stronger I've seen than my wife.
I've hesitated in sharing this ramble. However, I feel this is something I should share. As well as Bearclaw. The trials, the endless tough decisions that need to be made, the strain in the body and mind, the sacrifice, the unending compromises, the grit and toughness exerted, and the boundless limits of endurance is something I want to share. I want the reader to get a glimpse of a thru-hiker, in particular in a mind of a speed hiker and an extremist. I want the reader to see the unseen.
The results came back with high levels of Giardia. Plans have been made, but with the uncertainty of what she is battling now having a name we feel more comforted in moving forward with those plans.