Pilgrimage for Truth

On Sunday morning, I decided to walk up the mountain. In all the years I have lived in my house, I have always driven up the mountain to walk around the pond and cliffs that are at the top. I have always looked up to the cliffs and wished I could just walk there. Which is silly, because I could. Why couldn’t I? It’s funny how our perceptions work. Our minds just exclude certain opportunities. The other day I drove past a woman I often see biking up the winding mountain road, and I thought: I should walk up here. So, my perception was changed just like that.

It was cold and gloomy out, as I headed out at 8:15 a.m. The clouds had formed a dense gray blanket high over the sky that, over the day, would get lower and lower. It wasn’t very windy nor terribly cold at 40 degrees, yet the lack of any sun made it feel colder than it was. I started out from my house and walked the winding roads that are narrow and not made for walkers. It is so different when you walk–you notice everything you whiz by every day with more presence. Who lives in this house? Is anyone home here? Then I turned onto the mountain road and started heading straight up.

Soon I was removing my gloves and loosening my scarf. The road is steep. It didn’t take long to be able to turn around and see the Catskills beyond the tree line, a dreamy blue in the distance. I passed stone walls from an old estate, an entrance to nowhere, covered in vines and brush. Before the road turns to gravel, there is a beautiful old house that hasn’t been lived in for many years, and I always expect to see a ghost walking past one of its warped glass windows. Once on the last and steepest stretch, I passed a man walking down, and we waved to each other. I made it to the top in about forty-five minutes. So close!

There was another reason why I was motivated to walk up the mountain this particular week, and that was as a remembrance of Sojourner Truth. She had walked down this side of the mountain while carrying an infant in her walk to freedom. I felt impossibly privileged as I walked up in my hiking sneakers and down jacket. Once at the top, I went on the newly named Sojourner Truth Trail where Scenic Hudson had installed signs commemorating her life. The 26th, this Thursday (which falls on Thanksgiving this year), is the anniversary of her death, and a group of young activists have officially made this Sojourner Truth Day in Ulster County. I reflected on her strength and power as I walked down the mountain. This was just a small sliver of her 11.5 mile walk–one day I hope to walk the whole length.

Pilgrimages sometimes seem pointless from the outside, but the inside is where they are transformative. I came home feeling energized and warm, despite the gloom and chill of the day. I think that’s one of things we forget in our current world–that these seemingly pointless journeys (why would you walk up the mountain when you can drive?) are actually quite enriching. You can’t quantify it, you have to just let them be.

Notes:

I really appreciated this article from Orion on the Haudenosaunee, and the original role of women and nature that has been silenced by patriarchy. I think it is a fitting read for this week.

Whose land do you live on? I live on the land of the Esopus tribe of the Munsee Lenape people.

Whitewashed Hope: A Message from 10+ Indigenous Leaders and Organizations. If you haven’t already read this, you should now!

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