“Keep warm old man,” the boy said. “Remember, we are in September.”
“The month when the great fish come,” the old man said. “Anyone can be a fisherman in May.”Ernest Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea
Alas, I’m thinking of this quote as I pack my backpack. By any reckoning, best case, I’m in September.
Three months ago, I planned a hike. One month ago, during a bout of overwhelmedness, I cancelled it.
Then my girlfriend sent me an email. She wants to join me—but can’t join me. Still, she realizes that her able-to-join-me days are dwindling.
So are mine, I thought, as I rebooked the trip.
After all, I’m sixty-four.
“You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four”
I grew up on this song—a child of Beatlemania. Did Paul McCartney intend for those drumbeats of expectation to echo through my ten-year-old brain? Or did he merely pen a mindless ditty?
Most likely, these words reflect an inability for any of us to cast ourselves accurately into the distant future. Sixty-four is unfathomable, until it’s not.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll take a train to Strasbourg alone, explore, spend the night. Shortly after dawn Sunday morning, I’ll take a 15-minute train ride to Molsheim. There, I will start to walk.
The villages of Alsace:
Molsheim, Rosheim to Obernai
Obernai, Barr to Mittelbergheim
Mittelbergheim, Damnach-la-ville to Châtenois
I may take the high road to the Château du Haut Koenigsbourg, or I may stay on the relative flats. Either way, I’ll end the day in Ribeauvillé where Pat will join me.
Together we’ll hike through Hunawhir, Riquewhir, Kayserberg, Turkheim, Eguisheim. A few days later, we’ll end up in Colmar before making our way back to Paris.
I’ve already shortlisted my next hike. And the one after that.
Sure, I realize that my days of schlepping my pack between cheap hotels could end next year (or next week.) Or maybe I’ll become the French-wine-region hiking equivalent of Nimblewill Nomad who recently completed the Appalachian Trail—all five million steps—at the age of 83.
Nimblewill, I’ll venture to guess, doesn’t knit. Nor did he obsess over the overwhelmedness of five million steps. He keeps going for one simple reason: He keeps going.
Ignoring the naysayers, he has cast his line into a presumably barren sea. Against all expectations, he caught a fish.