I am broken. Diminished by a thousand years of bad decisions, heavy laden with the baggage of a lifetime. Inside my soul lies a pool of molten lava, a result of my shattered heart. The lava bubbles inside, burping up anger and rage in unpatterned explosions. Will I survive this rage inside me or will it take me down?
The sweetness of life is gone. I am empty. I try to fill the void with sugary treats but they only perpetuate the emptiness and wreak havoc on my body. The pressure inside me mutates the natural response of emptiness.
THIS iS NOT ME! I scream inside, this is not who I am. This is a result of my experiences, a chain of reaction to events that span a lifetime, if not many. Even my soul hides in the darkest corner unknowing of what the next step should be.
And it seems there is no way out, that I am destined to feel the pressure, to release the rage and bury myself in pity and Depression until I can no longer dig my way out. Woe is me.
But even in my brokenness I see HIM, yet HE is far away where I have placed HIM. In a place where I don’t have to shield my eyes in shame. His love warms me and keeps me alive in a cold, unforgiving state.
HE is always there, even if I am not.
When the book Wild came out a few years ago, I picked it up and was inspired to do the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Life got busy and my plans fell to the wayside. Then the movie came out this year and I bought it and watched it several times, each time getting more excited about the prospect of doing a long distance hike. In March I began training to get into better shape, planning to do one State of the PCT next summer. I began hiking easy hikes 2-3 times per week. I was doing this for 7 weeks when I decided I was ready for my first overnighter. Destination; Baker Lake trail East.
It was Thursday and I was at work when I decided to go. That night I went through my backpacking stuff and found that I had most of what I needed to go and what I did not have I could borrow, besides food and clothing. I packed up my backpack and weighed it without the food and water, 23 pounds. Great!! Way less than last time I went 20 years ago when I packed cans of chili and corned beef hash for a total of around 50 lbs. for one night.
I spent most of Friday with my daughter and grandson then tried to get my food and clothing together at the last minute Friday evening. I was planning on leaving for the trail early Saturday morning. After I thought I had what I needed, I weighed the backpack and it weighed 35 pounds now, which is still less than before but the problem was that I couldn’t get it all in the pack. Conferring with my husband, I decided to leave a bag of food out and my sleeping clothing. Finally, I stuffed it all in and the final weight was still around 35 pounds with food and water. I was satisfied. After all, it was 15 pounds less than last time. The plan was to only take one of the two dogs with me for ease of control. Rion had been having issues with his left hip so I decided to take Mister with me. Apparently, Rion realized this early and as soon as I put my backpack into the back of the 4Runner he was in the back seat and refused to get out. I didn’t have the heart to not take him so I took both. Off we went. We got to the trailhead at 9:40 am, which is a bit of a late start. We did the hike as planned and the following are lessons this trip taught me.
Lesson 1 – Planning your first hike in a very long time cannot be done in 8 hours.
Lesson 2 – Don’t pack a 3-man tent if you are the only “man”.
Lesson 3 – Food planning should include every meal and snacks for every day.
Lesson 4 – When trying to reduce your backpack weight after lesson 3, food should never be left out.
Lesson 5 – Water dogs and down sleeping bags do not mix well.
Lesson 6 – Wet down does not keep you warm at night.
Lesson 7 – Don’t read about bear attacks before going into bear country.
Lesson 8 – Know your distance limits and respect them. No, 9 miles in one day is not within your limits at this time. Neither is 7 miles!
Lesson 9 – Know how to use the water filter and any other equipment before you leave for the trail.
Lesson 10 – To save you from unneeded pain, know how to wear your backpack.
Lesson 11 – Being picky about your campsite increases your distance travelled.
Lesson 12 – Every campsite on a lake hike has mosquitoes.
Lesson 13 – Saying F### you to the next hill you have to climb does not lessen the altitude but increases the stress. Every trail has hills, get over it!
Lesson 14 – Planning a hike on the John Muir trail in the high Sierra mountains is pointless before you hike your first overnighter in 20 years.
Lesson 15 – Don’t park your tent next to a swamp if you brought water dogs…see lesson 6.
Lesson 16 – Don’t carry the 2 lb. stove if you left behind all of the food that needs cooking.
Lesson 17 – Dogs are not limitless hikers.
Lesson 18 – Bears and mosquitoes exist, get over it.
Lesson 19 – Not every sound you here at night is a bear that is stalking you.
Lesson 20 – No, the hiker next to you does not want to buy your filled backpack from you.
Lesson 21 – A nylon pillow tends to wander when placed on a nylon sleeping bag.
Lesson 22 -Never say you’ll never do this again, there’s always tomorrow when you have to hike back to the car.
Lesson 23 – Just because your gluteus maximus is so sore you can’t sit on the toilet doesn’t mean you can skip work on Monday morning.
Lesson 24 – Live, learn and do it better next time.
Lesson 25 – There is no substitute for spending time in nature’s beauty!
Today is her birthday. She would have been 11 years old, a mere 77 in dog years. I’m wandering around in my life trying to recover from losing her. It’s like losing a child. I go through the motions but the spark is lost. Her babies are lost without her too.
When we played fetch in the water, it was always Maggie that ran to get it and her boys followed after her. On Saturday, the day after she died, we took the boys into the woods and hung out by Barclay creek. I tried to throw a stick in for them to go get but they forgot how to fetch. They were waiting to follow her out into the water but she wasn’t there to follow. Eventually they started fetching it, but there was an emptiness to the ritual…something or someone was missing.
I don’t know how long it will be before I don’t cry when I think about her, or before I stop looking for her when I get home. In my heart I know that death of the body isn’t the end. But in my selfishness, I cry for missing her. For missing her soft curly fur, her cute little girl nose, the mickey mouse spot on her shoulder, the way she kneaded her toys when we sat together at home and the way she still tried to protect her puppies when other dogs came around.
I miss you so much baby girl, I don’t know how I will survive this pain of losing you.
Happy birthday to you wherever you are in heaven.
The corridor is crowded and the doorway is oscured by the bustle of people moving in every direction but yours. You’re a little scared having never been through this door you don’t know what to expect, what you will do, how it will end. Your whole life seems to culminate right there at the end of the hallway. You move with the crowd to and fro finishing your tasks and still moving forward toward the unknown.
A man, in the darkness of the hallway reassures you that it will be the best change you have ever made, he knows because he has gone through that door before. But you notice he has come back and that scares you more. And still you know going forward is the only right way to go for you.
Suddenly the crowd disperses for a long second and there you see it…the door. It’s beautiful by door standards…clean, bright with gold trim. You’ve earned that door and still you’re hesitant to quicken your pace for fear of the unknown. You’ve been doing this for 50+ years. ..it’s all you know. You wonder if you should turn around and stay a little longer…you stop but the crowd is faster than you and there is no room to turn around. You push forward. ..the door is closer and you see the beautiful details in it. Flowers, prescious metals, beautiful wood carving. You’re not so afraid anymore.
You stop at the door , your hand poised above the golden handle, prolonging the moment for the sake of the unknown.
You hear a song behind you…tada tadada tada da…you recognize the song, smile to yourself for a job well done and you push the handle down.
The door swings wide…at first it is too bright to see but then you realize what you see…a brand new clean slate surrounded by a beautiful mountain meadow in the distance that goes as far as the eyes can see. You feel the joy bubbling up from inside and you giggle like a child. You have arrived. The possibilities are endless, you can do whatever you love to do.
Not looking back you pick up the pen and start writing on the slate all the things you want to do and with each thing the joy fountain bubbles higher and higher until you drop the pen, raise your hands in the air and thank God for your life. As you head toward the meadow you see directional signs for the way to the things you love.
You’ve earned it, you deserve to be happy, you deserve to do what YOU want to do. And there you see your family behind you, cheering you on for every possibility you’ve created.
Have the time of your life Mom, stay busy and seize the beautiful moments of retirement. I love you, and I am behind you all of the way!!!
While often I feel like an oak in the middle of a forest of pines, I am amazed and inspired when synchronicity reveals others with the same ideas and beliefs as I.
I have discovered by accident the well known book Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and have found many ideas similar to mine and they were relayed more than a century ago.
Thanks to you Walt Whitman.
The evening was crisp and dark. I padded down my long driveway to put bottles in the recycle can, as the garbage service was coming tomorrow. As I neared the road I heard a muffled flutter and looked up to see a great horned owl fly from the street to the wire above me. My heart quickened as I gazed upon its beauty and its power.
We looked at each other for minutes…I said hi to it out loud smiling at the gift I was given. The three amigos saw it too and were as excited as I. We were not 10 feet from it above us. They swirled around under the wire, their curiosity peeked. The owl watched them from above showing me the flexibilty of a 360 degree neck.
I was amazed, excited and grateful all at the same time. I walked under the great bird and he didn’t move. We watched him for what seemed like an hour but probably was five minutes. I crossed back over the street and called the dogs back and as I crossed the owl followed and disappeared in the Grandmother cedar that marks the beginning of our property.
There was no fear in this whole meeting. I was, he was, they were all part of the plan…part of the knowing…part of God.
What a fine gift I received last night!
I want to hole up in a cabin for a whole year, away from the pretenders, the liars, the hypocrites, the passive aggressive cowards,
and the fakes. If I take visitors they will have to leave those things at the entrance and come only baring their soul and their joy. That’s what I want….
Descending into the darkness, the valley I promised to cross comes into view. Losing my false sense of self is terrifying and peaceful at the same time. I realize that my sense of self worth is a comfort to my ego but not my soul.
The torrents of wind circle my ankles and climb up higher than heaven as they release the dam I have been building for a lifetime and begin to fill me with emptiness.
I watch as the magenta sky moves across the horizon, a fire I’ve only just begun to try to understand.
The time is right, I know this in my heart. My mind has failed, my emotions distraught, but my faith endures.
I am ready because I know that everything happens for a reason, that only God knows.
I listened as the sonnet played in the background of the empty desert café. It was early and I was the first customer. I wondered if I would be the only customer for that day as the diner was in the middle of nowhere in the Arizona desert.
I watched as the waitress, standing outside the entrance, took a long slow breath through her cigarette and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Just as I thought she was going to pass out, the smoke escaped her mouth in rings of fire and listlessly floated away, shape shifting until form was lost. She was interesting and boring at the same time. I couldn’t imagine living a life as she does but I knew that everyone was here on earth for a reason and hers I could not tell but perhaps she knew or for sure God knew.
Suddenly the faceless man from the back, the same one who had made my breakfast, appeared at my table, and was apparently expecting me to answer a question I had not heard. I looked at him for a couple of seconds and asked him to repeat the question. He asked me if everything was alright with my food. He said he noticed that I had not touched it since the waitress had laid it on the table. He went on to say that he could make it again if I thought it wasn’t to my liking.
This was strange…since when do diner cooks care about what the customer thinks about their food? It was as if he was a world famous chef getting paid an exorbitant salary and his reputation was hanging on my opinion of his food.
I looked at my plate. Typical scrambled eggs, a bit burnt on the edges, dry, a side of shriveled bacon, not the best grade as most of it was fat, and two pieces of dry toast, cold with unmelted margarine slathered on the top. A side of orange juice, and little boxes of jam for my toast. Nothing extraordinary, nothing that I would write Mom about but he apparently was worried about it so I told him I was sorry, that I was a bit distracted this morning, and would he be so kind as to warm up my breakfast in the oven and I would get right to eating it. I asked him for a warm up fill for my coffee as well.
He glared at me. Apparently I had gone too far. But the glare was fleeting and he smiled and gently took my plate away from the table. Immediately he came back with the pot of fresh coffee and warmed up my cup.
I took a sip and watched out the window as the sky turned from midnight blue to vibrant pink, then red, purple and finally dawn. The sun peaked out from behind the desert mountains that surrounded the valley. The waitress had finished her cigarette and was washing her hands in the back telling the chef about her day off yesterday.
How could this life be real? Perhaps this was a novel, I was living in a novel that some unknown author was writing. If that is true, please get to the thick of the plot because I’m getting bored with the every day stuff. What’s the point? You’ve put me here in this desert, by myself, with a boring waitress and a sensitive cook in the middle of nowhere. Where are you going from here?
The soul’s journey was meant to be personal. While others provide love, companionship, information and physical pleasure, ultimately it is me that chooses what to incorporate intomy life’s journey and what to discard.
Alone is a perceived harsh word with a less than positive meaning passed down from generation to generation until it is no longer recognized as the single most important factor in finding the destined place in life.
In aloneness thoughts are clearer, unmuddled by others. In aloneness it is possible to sort through the different aspects of life that have been carried along the way…discarding those that don’t serve.
Every great person in history found lasting wisdom through being alone. And ordinary life is great in its own accord and requires the space to contemplate gems collected.
In a perfect world we would go throughout the day picking up tidbits and storing them like a harvester stores fruit in a basket. At the end of the day, being alone, we would sort through that ‘basket’ and discard the ‘fruits’ that don’t serve us and clean, cherish and store the ones that do. A daily practice like this would bring peace to an already chaotic world and it would provide balance so that the start of a new day begins with the solid foundation of your soul’s choice, ready to harvest anew.