Total Miles: 997.8
Standing at the kitchen sink, she gazes out into the stifling heat of a Deep South summer’s evening, the fire red sun hanging briefly against a gray sky before dipping to the horizon. A middle-aged woman wondering how another day locked in the same listlessness has come and gone, wondering “is this really all there is?”
On April 7th, singer-songwriter legend John Prine died of complications from Covid-19, at the age of 73. Perhaps his most famous song—and my favorite—was Angel from Montgomery, inspired by the image of that woman at the kitchen sink, longing to break free of a life that feels far older than her years.
The appeal of Prine’s music was always in its authenticity to real, unvarnished life. He wrote songs about what he called “the in-between spaces”—those little moments of life that so often go overlooked. The beauty in the ordinary.
I’ve always been drawn to that beauty and depth of the ordinary. While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016, I wrote this post about Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, that shares the same DNA of Prine’s songwriting. Raw and relatable, both that story and the stories that permeate Prine’s songwriting are about the eminently human struggles that persist underneath the veneer of what we show to the world.
I love that sense of stripping life down to what it really is, no matter how unsexy it may really be underneath. Case in point, when this hike is stripped of the poster-worthy photos of high mountain perches, what’s left? The good stuff, that’s what. The struggles, small and large, the fleeting and serendipitous moments, the hours of quiet toil, and the spaces in between. All in furtherance of a dream so inconsequential to hardly anyone else. Traveling along a path from one place to another place. What could be more ordinary than that?
Well, maybe traveling along a dirt road from one place to another is more ordinary than that. And that’s where we found ourselves this morning, under a pastel and grey sky, doing our best to embrace the beauty in the ordinary.
Land without homes gave way to plotted neighborhoods and a street grid with the kind of names you might expect in a small town—Elm, Maple, Pine, and eventually, Main. A giant smelter stack looms large on a nearby hill, a relic of the town’s distant past. Marking our progress against the stack as it grew taller with each step, we finally arrived with feet weary from the hardened path. Another ordinary town on an ordinary journey.
Latitude/Longitude: 46.12635, -112.93694