The goal of Trail-A-Week was 52 essays.
In August of 2015, I realized that I wouldn’t be a writer until I let my bones show. I’d already understood – gradually, after 24 years of doing it – that I am not fully living unless I am writing. But aside from a few (utterly nerve-wracking) published bits, I’ve written all those years for private consumption. Literally nobody but me has read most of my work. So I needed a way to get myself out there. Not so that everyone would notice, but so that anyone could. I wanted to get used to the idea that any person who wished to might engage with my work. Self-criticism will only get you so far; I wanted to hear others react, discuss, ignore, share – whatever in the world they might do with my offerings.
A writer also has deadlines to meet, and blocks to get over. I needed to see if I could do those things, so I set myself a test: one piece, every week, for a year.
I’ve tried many formats, and I thought I was strongest, happiest, had the best chance of completing my thoughts, with the essay. But I knew I’d be anxious if I planned to write one randomly every week. Before I can let go and create, I need structure – a theme or a goal, an arbitrary constraint that focuses my distractible thoughts. I can’t even remember how the light dawned, it seems so obvious now. Of course I should write about walking. It’s the other thing I need, to be myself.
If you’ve been here before today, you’ve seen my 52nd essay. I reached my goal, and Trail-A-Week is over.
When I started, I was describing my journeys on named hiking trails in my Pacific Northwest. By the end, I’d largely abandoned trail description in favor of writing about landscape in a larger way: how it enters and how it changes the mind, how I saw myself mirrored or challenged or created in it, what is like to be human in specific landscapes. This is what I’ve enjoyed the most about this project: trying to figure out what it feels like, what it means, to be a person in a place.
I have no easy answers. I do have some ideas about what to do with all this figuring, but before I share those, they need a little work. And I’ll keep writing new things; do expect this site to grow, but perhaps not at the rate of Trail-A-Week.
Meantime, dear reader, I still want to hear what you think. Did you have a favorite essay? Which ones didn’t work for you? If you read multiple pieces, what themes did you see emerging, and did they interest you? Which should I explore further? What spoke to you, and what turned you off? What are these essays? If you were me, what would you do with them? If you have a few minutes to share your thoughts and critiques, again or for the first time, I’ll be grateful.
As I am already. Because my other favorite thing about this project is the generosity of my friends, family, and some total strangers who hiked, read, and engaged with me this past year.
Thank you for walking beside me.