Friday, April 11, 2014

The Breaking of the Fellowship

I’ve sat down about five times to write this post. Five. That is today’s magic number, I think. Although Zachary and I aren’t leaving for the Pacific Crest Trail until a week from tomorrow, it’s five days until I have to say goodbye to three of the most important guys in my life: my dad and two brothers.

It started with Christian (well, actually, it started with Mary, the youngest, who moved to California two years ago. Then Zach and I continued it by planning this PCT hike. But I still hold that Christian is the catalyst).

Christian is the second of us four siblings, about a year older than me, and he’s going to Yellowstone for the summer as a kitchen employee at one of the lodges. Eric (the oldest, the unquestionable benevolent dictator of all our childhood games) and Dad took the opportunity to drive him out there so they could have a little road trip. 

Eric and Dad won’t return before Zach and I hop a plane to San Diego. And when Zach and I return, Eric will have taken his wife Sarah and moved to Nashville.

Of course, it’s ridiculous to say, “Nothing will be the same when we return.” Life flows on and changes whether we notice or not. The Missouri River, one of the constants of my life, never has the same water as it did the day before… (Are you about to burst into a song from Pocahontas? ‘Cause I am.) So it is with a family. But in five days, the river’s course is changing. 

People have always marveled that we four siblings were such good friends. Eric, Christian, Lisa, Mary, stair-steps in both age and height. We homeschooled together all morning, played together all afternoon, and read together all evening. We were almost never apart. We fought like crazy, but always had to work things out and learn to get along, for survival’s sake. “If you can get along with your siblings,” Mom said, “you can get along with anyone.” That kind of constant fighting and reconciling and adapting and adjusting strengthened the bonds between us in a powerful way.

We’re all adults now (at least we like to pretend we are), and none of us talk as much as we used to, but the bond is still there. And with Eric in Nashville, Christian in Yellowstone, me on the Pacific Crest Trail, Mary in San Diego, and Mom and Dad in St. Louis, we are being flung to the four winds. The stable core of This Is What Does Not Change in Missouri is ruptured. All this change is happening at once. Some of us will regroup in St. Louis after the summer, but the river is changing course. We will be in a completely new channel.

So in the midst of packing boxes and worrying about gear and filling out last-minute paperwork, I find myself often sniffing away tears, or getting unreasonably upset over things, or feeling unable to do anything, or breaking down over nothing. The fellowship is breaking up, and it doesn’t matter that I am so excited for Christian’s summer job and Eric’s music career in Nashville— it’s still hard. 

And since I seem utterly incapable of finishing this blog post, I will end with a pearl of wisdom from my brother Christian: “Life is like a rollercoaster: there’s a lot of screaming and someone usually throws up.”

Mary, me, Christian, Eric. 2011, I believe.


  1. excellent post/blog and I absolutely love Christians pearl of wisdom!!

    1. Thanks, kurkel! My brother is good at pithy sayings like that. :)

  2. Don't forget your handkerchiefs! Warn Christian that orcs live in the mud volcanos and belching fire dragon fumaroles right where he'll be working. May the beloved lines quoted below bring you all refreshment on your journeys there and back again.
    Peace, Uncle Kerry

    “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

    “One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters. You did rightly.”

    “The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others,” said Aragorn. “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.”

    Bilbo “used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business,’ Frodo, going out of your door....’ ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’”

    “The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”

    "Not all those who wander are lost."

    "The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can.
    Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way,
    Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say."