Sunshine Sindy

The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is roughly 2,180 miles long, it passes through fourteen states. It runs up and down and over the Appalachian mountain range from Georgia to Maine. As a child I’d hike bits and pieces with my step father in New Hampshire. I loved the woods and the outdoors but I didn’t like him very much. When I was nineteen and going out with The Chec we used to take little excursions all over the Northeast, hiking and running trails. I loved it and over time my expectations of beauty began to open up again. They had been closed for so long.

(Reminder : My over time may be as little as two weeks or two months. See blog entry-Tumbleweed)

When thru-hikers hike the trail they often take on trail names. My story of hope and my obsession with hiking the trail – which isn’t happening this year either – started with a woman I met on a bus in West Virginia named Sunshine Sindy.

In roughly 1993 I was married to my first husband – who I have lately started referring to as Triple-Ex; as Number One is really not fitting and he’s pretty big now. He was enlisted and we lived in an apartment outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I had recently finagled my way out of a six-year enlistment after spending three months at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

Told you I was bad ass…

I suddenly realized I wanted to be a doting wife to my angry possessive alcoholic boyfriend who had joined the Army to get away from us.

When I got to Kentucky off a bus I remember sitting in a dark stop on the side of a highway in a new southern state for HOURS waiting for him to pick me up. I was so young feeling so old and desperate to get it right. I recall knowing deep inside that this may be another bad idea.

He is and always has, had an energy over me that makes me question everything.

{An energy that is only recently waning}

At this point my mother had sold our childhood home and lived in Florida. I was on my own trying to figure it out. I had gotten rid of all my stuff to go in the military and did not want to crash back in New England with my stepfather.

I wanted it to be better now. Me and Triple-Ex in a new state away from all our home town bull shit and memories. The only problem with the plan was–it sucked there. Worse than a Lifetime movie. The most fuel filled angry passion I know of.

Me not drinking so I could keep my wits on his.

{We torture each other when we are both drinking}

One night after hours of fighting. Fighting that involved copious amounts of physical, emotional and demeaning abuse. After being locked outside of our apartment for what seemed like hours in a bra and shorts, sweaty and stale tears of sadness and rage dried on my face; I was able to gather a backpack and catch a bus home. I don’t remember where I got the ticket or how I got there, I have an idea but it’s fuzzy. I had no money. I didn’t know where I was going when I got there.

{I’d even forgotten to bring my underwear}

While sitting on that bus I felt truly like a loser. I felt battered and unloved. I was consumed by loneliness and a true desire to be wanted by anybody. To be needed and not used as a toy or pincushion. I was the hideous girl with the pretty mask on. I was bitter and bitchy. I was cocky and filled with fear of things that come out in the dark. Boogie men. All I had anymore were my deep internal values. They were often challenged by addiction and circumstance but they were there. An internal spark for the pilot.

To this day do not think of myself as an approachable person. Yet people, more often than not strangers, approach and engage me all of the time and that day in whatever month it was, didn’t prove to be any different.

{Only inspirationally enlightening and casting a beacon of hope for years to come}

We stopped to pick up passengers in West Virginia. I was alone and sitting in the back of the bus, a 20 year young woman surrounded with all of those aforementioned feelings at a stop. A woman plunked down next to me with a sandwich in one of those plastic triangles. We exchanged niceties and after introducing herself as Sunshine Sindy she offered me half of her sandwich saying she wouldn’t eat it all. Now I understand she probably could’ve eaten my weight in Snickers doing what she was doing.

During this time, it was advised for hikers of the A.T. to avoid a stretch of trail due to recent violence. Sunshine Sindy was a married woman from Maine hiking the trail ALONE going to her home in Maine where she had a group facility for people and their inner children. A lot of the new age things she was talking about I wouldn’t even know about until years later. I just listened to her speak of her journeys and of her empowerment.

She had my attention when, after I’d taken the half triangle sandwich and I was staring out the window silently, watching the rolling landscape of a road that I didn’t want to continue traveling on in so many facets; she’d told me I had the angriest aura she had ever seen.

I was fascinated with her and do not remember sharing much about myself, I was broken and truly felt I had nothing to offer. I was so enamored with the idea of a girl walking day and night through the woods in strange sometimes dangerous terrain. She told me about the tents and huts. Wild pigs and naked hikers. Details like the fact that Sunshine Sindy was a trail name never occurred to me until I started reading all the books I could find on the trail years later.

I read books, because I had nobody to hike with me. I am a pussy and have no desire to do it alone. Honestly I’d prefer a large strong useful man who would be willing to not only carry me occasionally but not mind making out under duress like lack of coffee shops.

Not only was I fascinated with the idea of her hiking alone, the fact that she had a husband at home waiting for her that was supportive of her living freely and completely; made her a Goddess. I like to remember her with long wavy, Joni Mitchell blonde hair. I have no idea what her face looks like at all.  I was lost in her stories of adventure. Her next goal was to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, running from Mexico to Canada. Sunshine Sindy’s hike and fortuitous landing in the seat beside me that day was not a coincidence. The enchantment and sense of wonder that was given to me that day was a gift from nothing other than what can be explained as a guardian angel.

Month’s later I was living in my friend’s mother’s house struggling with Triple-Ex, drinking heavily and beginning my love affair with benzos. Muttering through a heated love affair with a Virgo who later succumbed to smoking cocaine. Mix in an unplanned, absolutely fucking not pregnancy. I was ridden with panic attacks and an unhealthy desire to sleep with managers of the Ice cream joint I waited tables second shift in.

{I will never underestimate the power of fucking things up between the hours of 1 and 3 am}

Shortly before my doctor made a reservation for me in a local psych hospital for the mentioned panic attacks and heavy drinking. Along with my winter attire in the summer and my lack of enthusiasm to get across the heavily travelled street very quickly; I came home, to somebody else’s home, to find a post card.

The post card was from Sunshine Sindy. She made it to the end of the trail. She told me I was loved and it was all going to be okay. I don’t ever remember giving her any of my personal information.

What I remember today about the day I received her postcard day is where I was standing, when I read it. And being utterly amazed that she remembered me. I felt loved – unconditionally.

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