My dad calls it “the force of the world.” It’s that feeling of reassurance you get from the kindness of strangers, or from a bad-day-turned-good. It’s the sense that you’re not alone out there, that this vast planet is actually smaller, more familiar, than we lend ourselves to believe, that the path on which you tread is neither right nor wrong but your creation alone.
The force of the world. Or, as I’ve come to know it, the power of random, of chance and coincidence and fate all colliding together in a cosmic-like encounter.
I’ve felt this force of the world, the power of random, many times over the now year-plus I’ve spent living on the road. At Beech Mountain this past winter, I sat down on the ski lift next to a chiropractor based out of Boone. After a few minutes of small-talk, we realized we knew each other from Trail Days in Damascus, Va. He’d met me when I first hit the road and, knowing very well what the realities of road life would mean for my back, had given me his contact information should I ever need an adjustment. I spent the majority of the fall and winter clutching my lower back, cursing my poor organizational skills as I dug through the Jeep in search of his business card. I never found it, but I didn’t need to. He found me.
Just a few weeks later, I was chasing snow in the High Country outside of Boone and decided to make a pit stop at Moses Cone Memorial Park. I had limited time, no knowledge of the area, no map to guide the way, no sidekick to get lost with. Yet as soon as I arrived, a middle-aged woman on a pair of waxable cross-country skis glided over to my car. She was a local and an avid uphill skier. In a matter of minutes, I had a hand-drawn map and directions for a two-hour tour de Moses Cone. I might have figured it out on my own, might have gotten turned around or been forced to backtrack. But I didn’t need to.
It’s moments like these that, for better or worse, never really convince me to plan ahead and prepare. After all, as the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote, “a good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” So why not wing it, why not continue to fly by the seat of my pants if it’s worked out thus far? Sure, uncertainty can be a little uncomfortable at times, but it can also be liberating.
This weekend at Cheat River Fest in Albright, W.Va. (see images below from festival), I “hosted” the first of many meet-ups-to-come. I use the term “hosted” in a very loose sense, as it was my first time downriver and the people I paddled with, and the river itself, were really the ones hosting me. The logistics of the meet-up hardly went according to whatever plan I had tried to concoct in the weeks leading up to the event, but, as fate or chance or the force of the world would have it, everything worked itself out in due time (thank you to Laura and co.!).
In part, that’s what I love about the meet-ups. They’ve taught me the difference between “planning” and “plans.” While planning is important, the ability to ditch those plans is essential. Because really, when does anything in life go according to plan?
So let’s ditch those plans together. Let’s fly by the seat of our pants and let the force of the world take the reins. I’ll be “hosting” a few more meet-ups in the month of May and would love for you to join me. So check your schedule and mark your calendars!
May 7th: Patagonia Worn Wear Tour: Fayetteville, W.Va.
– See Water Stone Outdoor’s website for more details on the day’s festivities. I’ll be hanging out in the Waterstonia parking lot bringing hacky back. But join me later at the American Alpine Club Campground just over the New River Gorge Bridge around 5 p.m. for a slackline contest with prizes from ENO, LifeStraw, and Farm To Feet.
May 23rd: Appalachian Trail Hike and Trail Magic: Nellysford, Va.
– Join the crew from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports on a two-hour, out-and-back hike along the Appalachian Trail. We’ll meet at the Reed’s Gap parking lot at 9 a.m. and return by 11 a.m. to whip up some lunch for hungry thru-hikers passing by. Continue the party afterwards and help the magazine celebrate its 20th anniversary in Charlottesville at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion for a live performance by Old Crow Medicine Show and The Devil Makes Three.