Saturday, 15 June 2013

Flying Dumplings, Fathers and Sons

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. 


  1. Dear Cousin, I do enjoy reading these as it brings us closer together (since actual distance stands in the way) for the duration it takes to read. This one in particular made me so excited for our family "reunion" in a few weeks and to the hopeful anticipation that we'll also get to enjoy more than one type of "pyrogi."

    1. Thanks Rox. Looking forward to seeing all you guys soon.

  2. A feel good yarn - best of luck to Tim for the rest of his trek!

  3. Thanks Matt. I shall pass on your regards.

  4. You were always capable of good writing, Pete, but I've read none better from you than this piece here. A lovely exposition of the father/son relation wrought in the tracks and trails that you two traversed, in your life together. I like very much how you framed it with a tender melancholy at the passing of time, and it went so fast didn't it? I still remember him a blonde haired child with great jewels for eyes he used to train on you every now and then - and what were the things he saw, I used to wonder? You say he walks on his own now, though it is clear he carries an inheritance in his trail name and this joins him to the generations of your people and their history of endurance. You know, even if "little by little we never met again" as Gertrude Stein once said of her brother, I still wanted to come out of the liminal space that is the country of the past after reading this to say the thing which needs to be said: A great narrative of love between a father and son. Thank you.

    1. That is very kind of you, Streghetta. I've just come off 7 days on the AT with Pyrogi. Watching him out there - confident, calm, content - the elements of mastery. It was a great gift.

  5. I like your sensitive understanding of your son and his individuality.