Recently my family came to visit Maine. With a flower field to run, markets to attend, and CSA shares to fill, I regret I did not spend nearly enough time with them. Still, we were able to squeeze in a trek up Katahdin, Maine’s highest and (in my opinion) most epic mountain.
From Moosehead Lake, we got up before the sun and braved a stretch of the Golden Road, a logging road that spans a hundred miles or so across the North Maine Woods. It’s riddled with unpredictable washouts and blowdowns, moose encounters, and those 20-ton logging trucks that come barreling around the corner, just when you are convinced you were alone for miles and maybe days. We made our way north with my uncle steering the family van as I kept a careful eye on the map. We continued reassuring ourselves the heavy rain “showers” would clear into a beautiful day.
As we began our hike, the rain had mostly stopped, but the atmosphere and surrounding woods remained saturated with moisture. A gradual three miles led us to Chimney Pond, which shimmers beneath the rocky Pamola and Baxter Peaks, with an intimidating view of the legendary Knife Edge connecting the two. This day, however, our eyes traveled across the clear water to the beginning of some craggy cliffs, which quickly became engulfed by dense fog and mystery.
It began to dawn on me that the clouds may not magically part, gifting us with a beautiful sunny day, as I kept imagining they would. Still, my brother, sister, cousin, and I forged ahead up the mountain. After stumbling up slippery rocks and taking several moments to catch our breath, we reached a particularly challenging section. The trail rose nearly vertically above us, leading up a river of boulders into the misty sky. We discussed our options. We needed to be back to level ground in a few short hours. The rocks were precariously slippery and the view from the top may very well be nonexistent.
Yet, we had come here on a mission and already made it this far. We put our heads down and scrambled further up into the clouds. Without any clearing, we couldn’t see what we were climbing to, making it difficult to gauge when, if ever, we would reach the top. The last mile dragged on, but suddenly, there we were, standing before the legendary Katahdin summit sign.
We saw nothing beyond a 20-foot radius of boulders and a gathering of two dozen hikers, some celebrating as they had just finished their 2,500 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. The remaining miles of mountain and ridge line disappeared into the gray billows of fog.
I couldn’t help but feel denied the satisfaction that accompanies conquering a giant mountain while towering over the world below and taking in the rugged landscape I’d just pushed my body to overcome. Needless to say, the summit was cold, wet, and windy. We ate a quick lunch and hurried back down the way we’d come.
As we descended, I began to realize it’s not always about getting the best view. We may not have returned home with a picturesque photo of a breathtaking scene, but there were more valuable rewards to be had. The sense of accomplishment after persevering, when it would have been far easier to turn back… The journey we made together and encouragement to get each other through it… Believing in whatever we are doing enough to not give up, despite the outcome or whether or not others are able to witness, or even appreciate, how far we’ve come.
My life over the past couple years has been, and continues to be, a journey- both to find myself and my purpose. There are always those rock scrambles to defeat and a thousand excuses to turn back, but how would we ever know what we are capable of if we gave up when things got tough? Looking ahead, it may all seem like an insurmountable jumble or vision masked by clouds, but you have to start somewhere to uncover a path and direction.
Starting a farm is not as romantic and glamorous as we imagine, and while I feel well-supported and loved, it’s hard coming to terms with the fact that not everyone has the same appreciation and awareness for what I am doing. But I think that’s ok, because I believe in what I am doing, and if I can share even the slightest piece of that with those around me, then I’m making progress. It has become important for me to be deeply connected to food and flowers, from seed to table, and be able to channel my creative energy into beautiful arrangements that make people smile. The key is having faith that I’m doing the right thing and that it’s all going to turn out ok. To quote my most favorite Tracy Chapman song, “I’ve conquered hills, but I still have mountains to climb. And right now I’m doing the best I can.”