Aaron Hohle, a former summer staff member, continues his trek on the Appalachain Trail. Read his blog here.
Through my first two weeks on the Appalachian Trail there was very little life – the trees bare, few animals about, streams trickling rather than rushing.
And on March 25th the ground was buried beneath three inches of snow when I peered out of my tent. Everything I could see was white, aside from the wet, black bark on the trees.
I packed up quickly and got hiking to warm up my body. There were no footprints on the trail yet; the black and white forest was mine alone for hours.
As I descended into Wesser, North Carolina, the temperature warmed and the snow melted. The whites and the blacks in front of me began to bleed into each other, turning everything into a brownish gray – the mud, the trees, the rocks, and even the sky became monochromatic.
In a way, my day on the trail symbolized the changes in my worldview over the last decade. Through high school I interpreted my experiences in black and white terms. I was quick to determine right from wrong, good from bad. Yet in college, the graying began. I started to see how my black and white world was too simplified, that I was often naïve in my thinking. I found that when carefully analyzed, the blacks and whites of most issues or decisions tended to melt into gray.
And while the gray world feels closer to reality to me than the black and white, I have a hard time seeing definition – finding confidence or passion in any decision or commitment I make, whether it be in the professional, relational, or spiritual realm. The Paradox of Choice, as Barry Schwarz puts it in his book, can be paralyzing, and I would argue, even a bit dull.
Is there another way to see the world? What would it be like to have eyes that see beauty – that clearly recognize grace beyond gray? How might I learn to recognize the divine in an often murky, muddy life?
Soon and very soon, the mountains will rise from their slumber and spring will be here in full color. The leaves and the grass will be green, the cardinal and the woodpecker red, the flowers yellow, blue, and pink throughout the summer. If and when I get to Maine, I may even get to see some of the brilliance of the famed New England autumn. Life will definitely be in color on the trail, and I hope I truly learn to see it.