I remember. We are walking up the inside of Haleakala, a cliff plunging down one side of the trail and on the upside a low bank of brush. Our trek is almost over. We are very tired. It’s getting dark and I wonder, what happens if we lose our way?
As I walk I close my eyes and extend my arms down and out a bit from my thighs, palms forward. I feel the scraggly brush drift through my right hand and not my left. Cliff’s on the left, I tell myself. With eyes closed I continue following the trail this way through the gentle rhythm as the wild plants tag my right palm. When the trail turns they start tapping my left hand and disappear from my right. Cliff’s on the right, I say quietly. I don’t want my companion to know I’m worried we didn’t bring a flashlight. I want to make sure I can do this in the dark.
Then nothing from either palm. I extend my arms out a little wider. Nothing.
I open my eyes with a start. We are walking on top of a ridge, and I see in the rapidly fading light the cliffs peel off both sides of the trail. We seem near the top where our car awaits. We’ll probably get there before it’s too dark.
My companion comments from behind me. “I’m glad you know where you’re going. I can barely see.”
What do you do when you lose your markers?
My father’s heart stopped a couple days ago. The folks at the hospital started it up again, and my brother who is with him says our dad’s eyes lit up as he came back to consciousness. His thumbs up signaled to everyone in the room, “I’m still here!”
Like climbing the mountain without a flashlight, I don’t know what I’ll do without my dad. He’s a marker I count on to always be there. I know I’ll find my way without him, but I don’t know how.
I’m reminded of Theseus and the thread he took into the labyrinth and Hansel and Gretel and the pebbles they left as a trail back home— stories I don’t find so reassuring. You don’t go back the way you came.