I am flying to a meet a flying dumpling.
A jet plane from Oz is taking Suzi, my wife, and I to meet our 20 year old, Tim, somewhere along the white blazed trees of the Appalachian Trail, the 3000 kilometre “meander” along the east coast of the United States.
Starting in Georgia in April, Tim’s been doing the full distance and that makes him a “thru-hiker”. According to trail tradition, some of whose rituals would make any worthy rabbi, imam, priest or medicine man proud, “thru-hikers” take a “trail name” by which they are known for the duration.
“Pyrogi” is Tim’s chosen “trail name”. No prizes for guessing, “pyrogi” means dumpling in a slight riff of the Ukrainian language of Tim’s grandparents. Tim reckons hardly anybody gets it, but those that do are most bemused.
At present, “Pyrogi” and his hiking pal, Molly, are well and truly flying along at some 25 miles (or more than 40 kilometres) each day toward their epic goal of Mt Katahdin in Maine – before the leaves turn.
When folks ask me what Tim’s doing, and especially if he’s at university, I tell them he’s doing something more important. He’s walking. Hardly anybody gets it, but those that do are most bemused.
Walking is what has always got me to the good shit of the heart. Where fancy constructs fade. Where steps matter more than thoughts.
I take great pride from Tim’s trek and, rightly or wrongly, am honoured by what (I hope) is the special code of his “trail name”. My struggles as a dad – ranging from years of blindly bumbling about to other years of well-meaning clumsiness – seem to have thankfully not worked out to plan. Rather, Tim does a great thing and he’s kind enough to let us join him for a while next week.
Tim and I have done long walks since he was nine or so - places like Cradle Mountain, the Larapinta Trail and New Zealand. Our walks were usually the small patches of slow and simple in a world that I – and maybe he – sometimes found too fast and too furious. We’ve shared some risks, long silences, sleeping bags and Spam in splendidly beautiful places.
Now, at a distance, I have been watching him walk as a man. A vibrant and caring being - following a light and pursuing a rite to its conclusion. I make out it’s not a question of finding oneself – but daily creating and being oneself. With every step, with every packet of Ramen noodles mixed through with peanut butter over a camp stove, with every small American town with old guys in jeans talking about the weather (as Tim described it in an email) – there’s grace and there’s guts. There, there and there.
I think of Gibran who said “my children are not my children” and say Amen for great blessings.
Dear friend, you who comes here to read of dough and fillings and wonderful food, you may not get much of this. Fair enough. If you do, here with “Pyrogi” and us at the bottom of the blog, thanks for being bemused.