The Night Before Last Night. Hike

by HelluvaGirl

We were taking a night hike in the woods. 20 people, backpacks and a point B we could reach in three hours, if lucky, or never, depending on the map readers’ skill.

In the experiential training we got team tasks, like reaching an agreed destination point, meeting the second group, giving them a non-material present, exchanging routes and walking back, without maps this time, just relying on the traces the other group has left on their way.

There were optional personal challenges from the side menu, like a silence vow, or walking blindfold, dependant on someone else from the group.

Of course, pretty much everyone was expecting me to bring heels and lipstick, and, as I learned the next day during the feedback session, some were convinced I’d fall into hysteria after just enough hours of tiresome wandering in the wilderness.

I was myself expecting to meet my demons in full glory, having not the roughest idea of what they’d look like after getting cold, tired and being unable to deal with uncertainty. I know for sure they are somewhere deep down, and I know there’s no way to unsee after they show up. Hello Monday, why isn’t anyone speaking to me at work?

We decided to each have a buddy to look after so that no one would disappear in the darkness of the forest after taking a leak. After going outside, the group supervisor asked what about him. I said we thought he would just be a shadow, watching us without interfering and actually being a part of the group. But he could walk with the three of us if he wanted.

Before leaving, he announced he’d be silent for one hour. I said I wouldn’t speak for two at some point.

We were walking at the tail of the group. Interesting conversations, sharing an occasional cigarette (we put his smokes into my pack and made his an ashtray). Sometimes I would notice people acting out their usual patterns, and I would see him stopping and making notes.

One of the team tasks was to write a poem about the hike, and as I’ve told creative writing was kinda my thing, everyone was breathing on my back about it. Do you have it? How many verses? How about now? I’d laugh and say yeah, pressure is the key trigger for inspiration. Keep doing this!

My upper back started aching quite soon from the backpack so I was stretching when we’d stop for a break. He asked me about it. I said I was fine. He remarked that someone has just asked if anyone was tired and I shook my head, and refused help when a colleague suggested he could carry my backpack. Why wasn’t I accepting help?

I was surprised it was even worth mentioning. Sure, being helpful is way easier for me than asking for support. A narcissistic trait, I know. And I have learnt to ask for help in time of real need. Like when I desperately needed that job after the divorce. Or that time I got very sick and couldn’t deal with it on my own. But a little back pain was too small a reason to even bother people with it. So I told him I’d let them know when I reach my limit. Just that my limits are pushed quite far.

We found point B sooner and easier than expected. Fireworks, bonfire and food. In less than an hour, the second group showed up. We shared food and jokes. Alcohol was prohibited throughout the hike but we circled a flask of Lithuanian goodness just to celebrate.

Then we gave away our maps, extinguished the bonfire and packed up for the return trip.

It’s 12 am, he said. About time for the silence. Figuring out it wouldn’t be too long before we returned to the house, I said I would begin, too. So he shouted out to the group ahead to let them know.

The first 15 minutes were kinda funny. Then I started noticing many things, both outside and within.

That’s where the poem began approaching me.