Hey, thanks for checking this out; after laying out all the cash to buy off these reviewers I really appreciate someone noticing!
Now I am a liar and it’s possible these folks actually liked the book… but that seems highly unlikely.
I always keep a stack of magazines and such of reading material at the side of my bed. When I am busy with work the stack grows ponderously tall. When I have some free time I chip away at it a bit. For you computer programmers it is a LIFO system. At the bottom of the pile are some National Geographic magazines going back to the 1980’s that I am afraid I am not going to get to until I retire someday
So last summer as I was packing up for a John Muir Trail thru-hike, I went to pick out some reading material from the pile for when I bed down for the night on the trail. What do you think was sitting at the top of my LIFO stack? Why it was “Lying on the Trail” by our own Just Bill. Whether this was a message from the God’s or some strange coincidence, I do not know. But there it was, top of the pile, a trail hiking book begging to be brought on the trail.
This is perfect, I thought, a book of lies and tall-tales to bring on the trail. I imagined myself tearing out the chapters night by night as I read them on my way towards Mount Whitney. A book of lies to toss in the campfire and scatter as smoke in the wind. I gleefully anticipated the load in my backpack growing lighter with every day. Thinking I had found the perfect choice of reading material, I placed the book away in my backpack and began my journey.
Bill is a liar all right. He lies about lying. As I read the book I soon realized that I had become trapped in some kind of literary Escher drawing. Wrapped in all those lies were fundamental kernels of truth. Weighty truths about life, wry observations on the human condition, life lessons passed on from the children of Wakan Tanka. I cannot burn a book of truths. Only bad medicine will flow from that. So, ‘Lying on the Trail’ remained intact, I kept every page, as I walked the 210 miles from Yosemite to Mount Whitney.
It was when I got my resupply at the Muir Trail Ranch that this began to get to me. Ten days of food and supplies crammed into my bear can. Thirty-eight pounds weighing my out-of-shape body down as I made the final push towards Whitney. No item seemed heavier than the weighty truths in that damn book. This book was suppose to be gone by now, just a bit of light-hearted entertaining fluff dissolved in a campfire like so much cotton candy. There it was every time I opened my pack, the mask on the cover seemed to be mocking me. The title a constant reminder of Bill’s lies about lying. Yet each new chapter begged me on to the next. More weighty truths to be carried in my thoughts as I marched towards Whitney.
I began to think Bill was the playful trickster Sinkalip himself. I thought of the glee it would give him at the great joke of me carrying that thing over 200 miles. Every time I heaved that heavy pack onto my burdened shoulders I thought of the weight of that book. At night by the campfire I even thought I heard Bills laughter in the distant darkness (OK, perhaps, this was the yipping of an actual coyote). Either way, I began to curse Bill and his truths wrapped in lies and his book that I was unable to burn.
Finally, there I was on the last night of my journey. I had decided to camp out on the summit of Whitney itself and wait for the sunrise. There I was in the cold thin air enjoying the celestial display and thinking about the meaning of my hike. More than anything else this journey was a celebration of the interconnection between all things. The words of John Muir played over in my mind,
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Tired and satisfied I reached one last time for “Lying on the Trail” I had reached the last chapter of the book. I was hoping for a tall tail, a light-hearted bit of wordy popcorn to chew on as I closed my eyes. Instead I was offered a tiny ember, a spark of fire medicine, one last nugget of truth to be considered.
Mitakuye Oyasin. I’ll say no more about this truth, Bill is a better storyteller than I, but it provided a perfect end to a perfect journey. I could not fall asleep that night; once again the trickster had his day. Instead I thought of these words of Bill, and the words of John Muir. I thought of the spirit that moves through all things, of my interconnection with the world and all its people. I lay there and gave thanks for all that I had received.
And that morning I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise at the top of Mount Whitney.
I give thanks for the good medicine that brought this book to the top of my pile that day. I still have every page of this damn book. But after reading the last chapter of “Lying on the Trail”, somehow my pack grew lighter. My curses for Just Bill turned to a bit of a chuckle on the long hike down to Whitney Portal. Bill had fooled me. But just as Sinkalip often taught a lesson with his tricks, somehow old Bill had managed to do the same.