I like to say I earned my masters in a garden, but truthfully, I just fell into the family pastime. After college, majoring in English, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Certificate in Creative Writing, I moved to the family farm. And like most of these properties nowadays, there was no family to be found. Every modern appliance and tool had been adopted by relatives, still working their own plots of land nearby. The only implements left behind were the callus-inducing kind. I was stubborn. I refused to accept that gasoline, oil, complex electronics and hard plastics were requirements for food production, or cutting the towering piles of firewood required to not freeze over winter.
Ten years have gone by. And I give credit for the man I am to those splintered handles and dented iron and forgotten forests. Credit for who I am. But not for what I need to become. Ten years I have labored over the domesticated poetry of home, and now, all the teachers I need are on the far side of mountains. I am leaving Cherryville, my inheritance, the one hundred and thirty acre campus that supported me in all my graduate work. And I am walking to New York.
A couple weeks into August, I will be working my last day at the company that found me running a thirsty hobby farm and humble, odd job and landscaping enterprise. Foust gave me a chance when the most recent experience on my resume included phrases like yard-work and tree-cutting. Now it lists technology and office management, social media oversight and customer service. I will never undervalue the opportunities that have been given to me, and though I will not stop trying, I will never fully earn them. The presence of grace is inseparable from every shred of progress I have made over the past decade. Just being alive, as simple as it sounds, took a profound amount of faith and patience that honestly was not in me when I started.
Now the time has come to leave home. To chase down the horizons I’ve had my eyes on for so long. There are just about twelve hundred miles between me and where I will land in upstate New York, more mountains than I care to count, unknowables stacked like bricks, mortared together by so many overlapping footsteps. I am not on my way to become. I am not just getting started. I am a world-changing artist. It is why I was born, and it is what I have worked for since before I even knew such pursuits had a name. Time has come for me to use my feet where I always let my mouth do my talking for me. I am not strong enough for the path laid out in front of me. But I fervently believe the many hills between here and there will see to changing that. I intend to be forever changed.
Starting August 21st, I will be dropped off in Southwest Virginia somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. My day job for the following four months will be putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks to the inspirational woman that has come into my life, and the network of supportive, amazing people surrounding us, I will be landing in a small cabin beside Lake Ontario, where Ashley will be waiting for me. Along the way, I will write two books: one of poetry documenting my walk up north, and the other, a work of fiction about a strained relationship between father and son, who catch up to one another philosophically, theologically, and in actuality throughout a hiking adventure of their own. I will have a few months to settle, work, complete my manuscripts and hopefully take on a few other performance based projects in the area. Then, we will move into the city.
Urban life is the missing half of all my writing. It hit me like a wave just how many journals I have stacked up, and how none of them include living this sort of metropolitan, social, fast-paced experience. I feel like I have left a huge swath of characters and stories completely out of my books, out of my mind, and my prayers. My goal throughout this experience is to change that. I need a book of city poems. And I want that city to be New York. Once I have filled them up, my journal and my head, I am going to come back. I am going to build so much more than a hobby farm and a teetering stack of handwritten books filled with dirty pages. The strength required for this is not yet in me. I feel called into mountains the way students are called into classrooms. Who I will be, and what I am capable of, is unknown, but I have discovered the path that leads there. For just a short while, I am being called off the farm, and into the great concrete cathedrals of modern people.
I will have more information about this walk shortly. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask a question or express a concern. I’ve been preparing for this for almost a year, and I still have a lot to do to get ready. I have information on my blog about the trip, ways to help, things I’m doing to get ready. Right now, I have about four months to go before I start walking. I have Liberty Mountain all summer long, and I have so much work to do to prepare my life and farm. That being said, I am beyond excited for a change. For a renewed sense of growth, and adventure. I’m not going anywhere I can’t be followed. Through my website, social media, through email, a text, or even the old classic, a phone call.
Please feel free to keep up.
If you can.