The question was simple, but the answer is more complex.
Anish was here.
Those are the words of "the Ghost." More simply they are the essence. I was there. I was in that space in a moment and that was all that mattered. Breathing, taking in everything right then and there. No reason to wax eloquently about the weather or the journey. Those are the things that matter only to me. Those are the things that make that moment what it is.
More than that, I sign Anish because it is she that was there, not Heather Anderson. For you see, Heather walked into the Georgia woods one sunny day in the late spring of 2003 and she never walked out.
She died in those rugged mountains–in the Carter Gap Shelter–as she sterilized a needle with fire and plunged it into the giant blisters beneath every toenail. As streams of fluid shot out and the excruciating pain of the last week finally lessened, Anish was born.
Over the miles, through the rocks and rain and heat and insects and pain, Anish grew. She gained strength from hardship and joy from the becoming. Out of ashes and tears a new woman formed.
And when she placed the rock she'd carried on the summit cairn of Katahdin, it was the headstone for the woman who'd started the journey 2,172 miles before.
Heather is the name on official papers and nostalgic memorabilia. She is the ghost that haunts Anish as she roams the mountains. A reminder that she will always live two lives: reality and the one that happens outside the bounds of wilderness.