The desert sands of barren New Mexico bathed our fresh bodies instantly in a dust that would soon become our second skin. We had just begun the Continental Divide Trail, we had thousands of miles ahead through desert, mountains, alpine, and forests, and all we had to do was walk. So, walking is exactly what we did. As the first hour, then two hours, then three hours crept by, the situation began to sink in just as the sand was sinking into our shoes. This was real, this was our life, this would be our next multiple months of travel, everyday. We had done previous long trails, the AT and PCT in years prior, but were still nervous. There were rumors around the CDT, rumors of extreme bushwhacks, rumors of people getting lost daily, rumors and fear in the vast isolated expanses of land that lay ahead. As our steps led north our mind drifted into the realness of the situation we had now found ourselves in, and while there was overwhelming feelings of excitement, they were coupled with a jittery nervousness. Well that is until our shining star, our token of happiness, our memento of love was found in a desert wash.
Yes, having a rock in the mouth is probably not "sanitary" but it's Patrick!
Our buddy Baskets, was the first to see it. A pink rock upon a golden brown landscape. Picking it up and turning it over he smiled mirroring the smile painted upon the rock. He had found Patrick the Rock! Someone had painted a rock to look like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants and it was glorious! As we shared a chuckle and a laugh over the beautiful absurdity of the moment, he joked, well one of us should carry it to the end of the trail. We once again laughed at the absurdity of carrying a rock for thousands of miles, and continued our forward momentum. Yet, as we began to put steps between us and Patrick, the mind was consumed with the goofy grin and lightheartedness of that rock. Consistently looking behind feeling like I was leaving not an inanimate object behind, but a friend. Not too much longer later, I would catch back up with Baskets with a pep in my step, and a weight in my pack. I had picked up Patrick the Rock, and never again looked back.
Say what you will about the simple-mindedness of someone that receives extreme joy from a rock. We will laugh alongside you with the ridiculousness all the while knowing in our hearts that the very ridiculousness is what makes it so very special to us. Patrick the Rock has now gone on to complete the Pacific Northwest Trail, Ice Age Trail, Arizona Trail, Great Divide Trail, Vancouver Island Trail, Florida Trail, New England Trail, Potomac Heritage Trail, North Country Trail and many more! Patrick the Rock has now been carried through swamps, long road walks, hypothermic mountains, mid-western plains, rainforests and jungles of the Pacific Northwest. He has now completed upwards of 10,000+ miles through many of the vast landscapes of the United States, and has more wear and tear now, but his smile has stayed just as radiantly beautiful as the day we found him.
When we were caught in freezing rain and our hand would close around him in our hip pocket, it would carry with it an instant smile. When we were dehydrated and beginning to hear the echoes of heat exhaustion in our ears, we would seek sustenance in the coolness of his touch. When our body began to wither and float away through months of high mile days, we would remain grounded with his weight. When our mind began to weaken and wobble with doubt, his consistent happiness would wash away our troubles. Yes he is an inanimate rock, but he has truly taken on a personality of his own.
Smiling after multiple swims through the Suwannee River
We give power to the objects around us. We create stories, we create connections, we create personalities in the inert. All of us do this in one form or the other. It could be your vehicle, that you have bestowed upon it a pronoun or even a name. What does that name signify, if not a certain transference of emotion and personality onto an inanimate object? We hold special bonds to objects that contain memory as well. Could be a photograph, could be a coffee mug you have had for years, could be that jacket that has been passed down through generations. We give these objects special weight, we give these objects a story, we create a feeling inside of ourselves for an object that itself has none. This happens way more than one would assume. Take a look around you at what is inside of your life, and you would be hard pressed not to see at least five objects with which you have transferred emotion and thought into. When we begin to see and more importantly feel connection to an object, it truly becomes alive, at least in our own perceptions.
Patrick the Rock has an entire "life" inside of him. We perceive him as a jovial and constantly happy figure. We perceive him of having the mindset of no matter what happens, experience it with a smile. We perceive him being steadfast and sturdy, just like...well just like a rock. We perceive him to be able to endure and withstand anything. We perceive him to not only smile into an oncoming storm, but laugh his way through it. We perceive him to be kind, gentle, and exude a calmness when there is only chaos around him. We perceive him to have the depth of wisdom that is felt more than seen when people first see an outwardly goofy and carefree grin, the wisdom to face the world with the responsibility and gift to try and spread happiness with a smile. We perceive him to have the values of putting others before himself just as he does on trail. No matter the turmoil, struggle, or pain he is experiencing, he finds strength to smile and bring relief, joy, and happiness to others. We perceive him to love without bounds, love fully, and love deeply. We perceive him to love, because when he loves, he lives.
When we begin to define Patrick as such, we begin to become self-aware of our transference. In him we see what we hope and strive to be. We begin to emulate a rock. A rock that on its own has none of these traits. A rock that instead we have bestowed upon our own wishes, our own values, our own transference of emotions. A rock that for us has become our own strength while also reminding us of our own weaknesses. A rock that has taken on a "life" of its own by becoming a physical representation of our deepest desires.
Anywhere and Everywhere, Patrick the Rock is smiling, no matter what!
Patrick the Rock. Outwardly an incredibly absurd and humorous "trinket" to carry with us on our adventures. Yet, when we look past his smile, look past his constant happiness, look so deeply past him until we see into ourselves, we begin to understand a little more about life. We begin to understand that by carrying this rock, we are also constantly carrying our own values. We are constantly looking into ourselves, to try and be a better person. We are constantly smiling through the storm, because well that is what Patrick would do. Maybe, just maybe one day, we will no longer need to carry Patrick the Rock. That day is not yet today, we still have much to learn from him and through him. Yet, when that day does come, we hope to lay him back upon the trail, for someone else to pick up, and begin their own journey. For when they pick up that rock, who knows, maybe they are picking up a part of themselves. For when you find your own Patrick, maybe you are ready to take that next step into learning and becoming who you truly want to be. Who is carrying who?
With Many Metaphors and Smiling Symbolisms,