August 25

I did 9 miles today and I’m in a motel room in Great Bend, Kansas. Here is one of my favorite stories from finishing my Appalachian Trail hike in 2000:

I was hiking through the New York area of the AT and was planning on getting out of the cold and misting rain by staying at the Graymoor Friary. My Appalachian Trail Data Book said that the monks at the friary offered a free nights lodging to thru-hikers. I was really looking forward to being inside for the night in a warm bed. I found the Friary and started looking for the building where my hot meal and warm bed were awaiting me. I approached a very old nun; I’m betting she was in her nineties. I mean, this woman was really old. And she was very short and round. She was very pleasant though, and when she smiled, only one tooth showed. I asked her where they let the thru-hikers stay. She told me they were no longer doing that. Some convent somewhere had burned down recently and the homeless nuns were offered shelter in the dormitory formerly provided for thru-hikers. But they did allow hikers to camp at the baseball field she said. The kind old nun continued, “The wonderful Brothers here at the friary have donated their building for such a wonderful cause!” All I could think was “Screw the Brothers and the homeless nuns too!” Now, I had to pitch my tarp and sleep in the mud at the friary baseball field. And, I would have to eat those damn Ramen noodles again, in the friggin’ rain. In the cold friggin’ rain! “Yes,” The old nun informed me, “The Brothers have taken an oath of poverty you know.” I said, “Well, I haven’t! If they really want to experience poverty Sister, have one of ’em come down here and trade places with me. I’ll go up there and eat a hot meal, sleep in a warm bed, and wake up to a hot breakfast. And the seeker of poverty can come down here in the cold drizzling rain and try to get that damn wood burning stove lit to heat up those damn Ramen noodles and then crawl under a tarp to sleep and then wake up in a cold rain without a hot breakfast. Now that Sister is poverty. They should be delighted to swap places!” That old woman bent over and slapped her knees in laughter! Every time she came up for air, I could see that one tooth; she looked so very sweet and seemed to be having a grand time. Hell, I started laughing too. The two of us must have been an odd sight; standing in the cold drizzling rain, doubled over in laughter in front of a big statue of some Saint. We said goodbye and I headed for the baseball field, in the rain. As I lay under my tarp, I could visualize the monks up there in warm beds with full tummies, experiencing all that friggin’ poverty. I could also visualize the round face of that old nun laughing with her one tooth shining; I had made her laugh. Good. Isn’t it just marvelous when we can make others laugh? LOVE LIFE and stay happy enough to make others laugh and enjoy life causing them to seek to LOVE LIFE at all times too.