I was thinking about the importance of bridges. Certainly whole cities and civilizations have grown up around them. At least one person drowned on the Appalachian Trail trying to ford the bridgeless Kennebec River. My hiking partner was swept downriver when I hiked the PCT, and there are some notorious rivers to cross on the CDT which have also swept people downriver.
When there is a bridge we come to rely on it. A bad one can be worse than no bridge at all. We've all heard of bridges collapsing, dumping people to their deaths.
Bridges have multiple meanings for me. Growing up with dissociation meant that I walled off certain parts of myself. One part held the pain while other parts functioned in the world. There was no connection between the parts. This works for survival but not for living a fulfilled life. I needed to connect the parts.
For me, this meant building bridges. First I had to connect with someone on the outside, a person who felt safe and cared about me. Then I had to step aside and allow my inner parts to connect with that loving, outside person. That formed a one-lane bridge. Then when that outer person reflected back to the rest of me their acceptance of those parts and the knowledge they hold, the second lane was formed. The bridge was complete and I could walk across, connecting previously disconnected parts of myself.
I think we all need bridges of sorts. The baby needs them to gain a good sense of self. Loving relationships mean continual shoring-up of buttresses. We need more bridges to connect those of us with different political beliefs. But bridges require trust and a lot if work to build.
I've encountered many bad bridges in my life. I've had logs collapse under me while walking across a river, and plenty of people I thought I could trust betrayed me. Luckily, there were other people waiting with a net to fish me out of the water.
I think on a daily basis we have to ask ourselves, "Will we build bridges today or will we tear them down?"
Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half this year.
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