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Sunday, May 31, 2015

The longest journey

Thirty years ago, I was helping a friend move into her Jimmy Carter house, and noticed a pile of apple tree prunings by the road, put there by the people who cleaned up the lot for construction. One small branch appeared to be quite straight and potentially useful, so I purloined it and threw it in the back of the pickup.

At home I trimmed off the tip and twigs, peeled the bark, waited a few days, then painted and varnished it and added a crutch tip. It has faded and been touched up and faded again over the decades, but it's my go-to walking stick.

Handy for hiking, walking the dog, and for ambling across the uneven ground around the place, it has been my constant companion. It's rather old growth, with almost fifty rings, and still supple, though some large cracks have appeared. It's better balanced than it looks, with a slight curvature that comes back to the center of gravity, and handles like a katana-style bokken. As such, it can and does serve as a deterrent to potential muggers and has been used to decisively persuade large dogs to leave off attacking the elderly ten-pound Toto.


The markings, from top to bottom, are as follows: 
  • A ring of four colors representing the powers of North, West, South, and East.
  • A section of small medicine wheels, each representing a long hike or backpacking trip, and dots, representing day hikes, such as along the beach or to a lake in the wilderness.
  • A black ring representing the emptiness before birth.
  • Another ring of four colors representing the powers of North, West, South, and East.
  • Fifteen iterations of AUM (), a signature (R. Bear) and Philip Sydney's motto "ad astra per aspera."
  • A black ring representing the emptiness after death.
  • Another ring of four colors representing the powers of North, West, South, and East.
  • Red, for the Earth.


The stick has been to the top of South Sister (above) four times and it goes with me when I visit the site where my parents' ashes were scattered. The dot for the first such hike, when we carried the ashes, is in blue paint (wisdom of the elders), and stands out among the other hikes' Permanent Marker dots.


Nowadays the applestick does not get far from home as often as it did, and the dots are accumulating more slowly.


I should add to my will that when I enter the gate of the second black ring, the family should send it with me. After all that is the longest journey we take.

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