Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Outcroppings


There's this point near the end of most hikes where I really need a helicopter to appear, dropping a rope ladder directly into my hands, and instantaneously whisking me back to my car, without another moment of delay. I need to be OFF the trail, softly seated, feet up, with a refreshing cold drink in hand. Tony likes to say "the first immutable law of hiking is that for every downhill there is an uphill twice as long," but I claim there is at least one other enduring law - the hike will move instantaneously, without any foreshadowing, from feeling "perfect" (oh my, this is beautiful! oh my, what a great day to hike! oh my, I am having so much fun!) to pluperfect (as describe in Oxford Languages, "an action - in this case, hiking - completed prior to some past point of time specified or implied"). My gas simply runs out. The hike is over, past tense, completed, before it actually ends.


Perhaps it is this act of hiking while exhausted, past the point of comfort, having to dig deep into some invisible reserves, that adds to the feeling of accomplishment?



We recently hiked Sugarloaf Mountain, a small but beautiful, local mountain. The day was absolutely gorgeous, with cool fall temperatures, bright sunshine, lovely breezes - a day meant for hiking, and we really did enjoy the outing, despite my concluding sensations of needing it all to be over. In the end, we had hiked some eight miles, though the original plan had called for three or four - thus my fantasy of a helicopter arriving. 

Long before exhaustion hit, I enjoyed enjoyed enjoyed. I love how hiking requires your full attention, that you be alert to where you place your foot - is it root? rock? shifting sand? The terrain is constantly changing, always varied. My favorite patches involve hearing the echoing thunk of each footstep on the ground, as if I am all alone in the world (and oh so capable). I love the natural surrounds, and find myself absorbing all these minute details - the way trees bend, a sudden burst of orange or red, the shape of rocks. Perhaps most of all, I love how my mind wanders, thinking of so many different and unexpected things. 

Who lives here?
Wild mushrooms




Some parts of this hike were tricky - climbing over loose and shifting rocks, trying to wedge my foot in a tight crevice, bending and lifting myself up and over ridges. At times, it seemed my hips and knees were going in different directions, certainly separate directions from my mind. Always, always, always, just when I needed it most, there was a perfect rock waiting for me - wide, flat, steady, strong, beckoning, allowing me to rest, catch my breath, regain my footing. We had a refreshing snack while sitting on a beautiful outcropping, and felt energized for the rest of the hike. 

I've been blessed with friends like this through the years, friends who popped into my life by surprise just when I needed them,  rock steady and strong, letting me catch my breath, giving me much-needed perspective. These friends were often temporary, "passers-by," appearing at different phases of life and not necessarily in for the long journey - I'm thinking of former colleagues, dorm-mates,  "I'm a new Mom, too," and "oh, your child's at this school, too?" - you know, friends of a time. 

Yet, still very, very dear in my heart. 

I found myself remembering each of them on this last hike - their wisdom and insight, their reassuring ways. 

This, truly, is a gift of hiking - the memories tapped and released, to savor once more.


Tony & I at the summit

___________________





It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!


2 comments:

  1. Maureen, I love this post, especially your profound thoughts about friends. I recently told a friend from work she has to remain my friend. I’m not ready to let her fade into time. I feel this way about so many people these days. I should have paid more attention to those life treks w/ friends along the “hike.”

    Your pictures are gorgeous, but I do understand those thoughts about exhaustion. I have my hiking limitations, as much as I love the walks through nature.

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  2. Oh, that SKY. Could it be any bluer? And what a metaphor of truth, that "immutable law of hiking." I keep thinking of other applications...I am reminded, reading your words, of how much we need physical activity and "good tiredness" (vs. mental or spiritual exhaustion, anyway...) and how much we need to savor nature. And the sharing of the journey of life, speaking of hard climbs. Such a beautiful post.

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