Exactly a week after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, I found myself climbing up the gentle ascent of the Slippery Brook Trail in Chatham, New Hampshire.
It was expected to be a boiling 96°F, so I started my hike early that morning, getting to the empty trailhead at 7:00 a.m. It was now 8:30 a.m. and the heat and humidity were already making their awaited appearance. I pushed on, occasionally removing my baseball hat and wiping the sweat off my brow.
This past week, I have simply been going through the motions of my adult life. I go to work, laugh with my friends, and make myself dinner with the windows open, letting the summer air pour in as I try to grasp this new normal. But the notion that six people just pulled the rug out from under millions of its citizens has been perched in the back of my mind.
This was a calculated power grab that has been brewing for years, a slap in the face and kick to the ribs to our country’s most underprivileged inhabitants. It’s hard to wrap my head around the thought that our nation’s highest court—the supposed guardian of our country’s constitutional liberties—bamboozled us.
My visceral rage hasn’t subsided in seven days, so I’m making good time on this hike, almost as if my body knows it needs to run away from something, but we just haven’t figured out what yet. The trail is mostly dirt, except for the occasional rock or root. My earbuds are in as I listen to music. I remove them occasionally, listening for approaching hikers, the twittering of birds, or the crashing of a heavy-footed chipmunk in the brush.
A couple minutes later, I come across the trail junction for the Slippery Brook Trail and Eastman Mountain Trail. The trail sign that states I’m 0.8 miles away from the apex of Eastman Mountain, my intended destination for today.
Suddenly, I realize what song I’m listening to and stop in my tracks. I lean my hiking poles against the post of the trail sign and place my hands on the hip belt of my pack, bowing my head and studying the ground as I listen. “Back In My Body” by Maggie Rogers is blaring in my ears. My breath hitches, and I quickly take a deep breath, startled by the lump that has abruptly appeared in my throat.
I first heard this song in 2019 when Rogers released her debut album “Heard it in a Past Life.” Her folk lyrics and dance music production makes the music both rhythmic and engrossing. “Back In My Body” slowly builds as she softly croons over the first two verses. She describes an anxiety-ridden time on a leg of her tour in Europe, where she felt she had lost all sense of control of herself.
“I was stopped in London when I felt it coming down /
Crashing all around me with a great triumphant sound /
Like the dam was breaking my mind came rushing in /
I was stopped in London, oh, I was awakening.”
I still remember the chills that spiraled down my spine the first time I heard the crescendo of the second reprise of the chorus. The percussion wholly enters, the instrumental gets louder, her voice unyielding and confident as she belts it out:
“Lost you in the border town of anywhere /
I found myself when I was going everywhere (back in my body) /
This time, I know I’m fighting.”
I summit Eastman Mountain and digest the views of Maine and the Eastern White Mountains. I have “Back In My Body” on repeat in my ears. The pressing weight of anger and hopelessness eases up a bit. Newfound determination fills that small void.
My brain has encased a million memories. The spongy flesh of my lungs, pink and pure, are nurtured with unblemished mountain air. My calloused hands clutch and gently hold. My bones, a sturdy foundation.
The government doesn’t believe these wholly belong to me.
My body is a carapace. A shell that I have nourished for almost 30 years. It is the vessel for my robust mind and insistent spirit. For now.
It will come back to its rightful owner. I’ll make sure of that.
“This time I know I’m fighting /
This time I know I’m (back in my body).”