perspective

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It was kind of funny…

I’d walked the same stretch of trail only 6 days before but it was completely unrecognizable. And not for the first time I wondered why… Was it because I was going in the opposite direction? Was it because the time of day was different? Was it because my pack was lighter on my back and my body was more comfortable with it after 6 days on the move? Was it because I had changed so drastically over that time that how I viewed the world was no longer the same? Was it, as is most likely, a combination of all of these factors?

Of course. Of course the trail would look different. Of course I had changed.

When I had walked it before, I had been heading South, climbing away from Tuolumne Meadows. Each step was a fight against gravity pushing against my heavy pack. Each step was working muscles that hadn’t been tested since the last backpacking trip. The terrain was headed towards thinning groves of trees and the barren expanse of the pass fourteen hundred feet above. The morning’s coolness soon gave way to the heat of a humid thunderstorm laden afternoon. The threat of the unknown, the potential obstacles, the hard fought miles, the aches, the pains, and all the other struggles of a multi-day trip lay ahead and weighed down every forward movement.

When I returned, I was trekking North, descending from Tuolumne Pass and returning to the shade and comfort of the ancient trees at the lower elevations. The morning cool had held sway over the stretch of trail above tree-line and then the afternoon’s warmth was kept at bay under the expansive canopy. My pack had been relieved of my share of the week’s meals. My muscles had hardened. My body had grown accustomed to the weight strapped across my hips and held securely to my frame over my shoulders. Gravity had become my friend. It helped my feet move forward and press down as each step went downhill from the last. I had survived the previous days, the aches, the pains, the struggles. All that was left was the final miles that would return me to the car and civilization.

Still, it was the same stretch of trail. The same trees. The same rocks. The same winding path. The same major landmarks. It should have looked familiar. Shouldn’t it? That’s where the source of confusion comes from. My mind was thrown off that it knew I’d walked those miles before but didn’t recognize them. It expected to and it riled at the disconnect, sending me warnings and demanding that I pay attention rather than relax and enjoy the beauty around me.

Because I’d felt that sensation before I was able to push it aside and still enjoy the final steps of my trip. It did make me wonder, however, how often we have similar perspective shifts in our day-to-day lives that cause us to worry. Those times we break from our routines, even only by a little bit, and our brains are thrown into overdrive… Driving familiar streets at a different time of day? Visiting a different neighborhood store than normal? Wearing a different style to a routine function?

What else? When have you felt a bit of that fight-or-flight response kick in when there was really no reason for it, when an almost routine, almost normal situation made you pause because it felt wrong, felt scary, felt funny?

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is. I was struck by the oddness of the situation on the trail and it made my mind wander a bit so now I’m sharing with you and maybe it will make your mind wander a bit too.

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every journey is different

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The stone-stepped path works its way toward the pass and then beyond, far out of sight but never out of mind. The destination is known and yet it is different for all who take the journey. Some find beauty. Some find strength. Some find what they were missing. Some find and so on and so on and so on… Like the rocks that line the trail and mark the passage of miles, the possibilities are beyond counting. And that is just the trail itself. There are even more possibilities for those who step off the well-worn paths and find their own way.

perfection

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Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then a screech pierces the air and a flutter of wings heralds a hawk, on the hunt, passing overhead.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then a splash, spotted afterwards by the concentric circles, minute waves, spreading outward, hints at a fish leaping for a snack.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then the trees whisper and gossip as a breeze runs up the canyon, signaling the time of day and the changing weather.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then a local stops to berate us in tiny barking chirps about our choice of tent, or maybe the squirrel was simply saying hello.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then the unmistakable roar of jet engines pulls eyes upward to find the craft already halfway across the sky.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
But then there is nothing wrong with that, I think, as I enjoy my time sitting next to the pristine alpine lake.
Quiet. Still. Calm.
Nothing stirs.
Exactly the way I like it.

because they do

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Dead tress litter the high country, those rare places where the earth attempts to reach the sky. In some places the dead outnumber those left behind to carry on stretching for the heavens. The wormy carvings, the evidence of their doom, are etched across their bare trunks. Drought and a beetle, two things these giants long stood strong against, finally broke through their defenses and feasted heavily on the ancient lodgepoles. The once green forests are graying and thinning like an old man. The forests of the high country are old.
They are still beautiful of course, even if the dead give them a haunting quality that speaks to the one debt we all owe. Or, perhaps they are even more beautiful because of the ghosts standing in their midst. Even these ancient towering spires pay the price of life but they stand tall and meet their fate stoically. They have no choice to do otherwise, of course. Of course. But there is still something honorable there.
Or maybe my judgement is skewed by the thin air and the staggering beauty that surrounds me when I stand in such places. It is always a struggle to get there, to catch these glimpses, to then pause and take it all in. Here are trees that grew from a seed in the harshest of climates for hundreds of years. They struggled and succeeded and grew. I struggled and succeeded in reaching them… and I too will grow.
My journey is different from theirs, yes, but that is inconsequential as long as I continue to reach for the sky, reach for my potential, reach for the highest highs and stand strong against all that work against me.
You should do the same.
We all should.
For we are all like the forests of the high county.
Beautiful.
Even as our age and experiences show through.
Because they do.

The Routine

Your routine began
Your dad
Your puppies
Your bike
Your dad’s bike
Your bike rides with your dad and your puppies
Your walks too
Your routine
Your mom
Your dad
Your puppies
Your mom calls 911
Your mom shot your dad in the head
Your dad’s life ended
Your routine ended