The desert continues to surprise and delight. We spent two days at the racetrack. We were the only human inhabitants. The sky was immense here. It was a very intense bumpy ride. A ride I don’t think I will ever venture on again. But, very stoked for the opportunity to visit this vast, mysterious place nestled back in the desert. A dry lake bed. A very large rock formation on one end which was labeled, “The Grandstand.” It is said that rocks move rather mysteriously across the dry bed… when the ice is solid and the winds strong.It is a very curious place that draws one into contemplation about the many wild features of the desert landscape.
We took off early morning towards a saddle that looked to have views on one side of the Racetrak, and the other side of Saline Valley. It was a super hot, dry trek up. But we were rewarded with the multitude of rocks. We have all become very captivated by the geology of the desert.
It was by far the coldest night of our trip so far. Besides my Zpack 10degree bag, I had 2 packing blankets, down pants and down jacket. I was still a little chilly!!
The next morning we arose early to see the sun rise over the Racetrak as we headed back out. We hiked across the lake first. It was freezing…but super cool. The desert sun had baked the ground. It was cracked and thirsty seeming…I walked for quite a distance with my eyes closed. Giving in to all doubt and fear. Just walking. Listening, smelling, feeling really immersing in the moments. It was awesome. ” It is more than seeing, it is tuning in and allowing the current to connect with ones own … a means to the end of living in front of things and a beginning of living with them…” Jacques Lusseyran ( And There Was Light) I could relate to this sentiment from a man who was blind. I felt more apart of. I declined making judgment about or trying to define that which I was seeing. Without sight I was a part of, and not apart from.
After leaving the Racetrak we drove to a place called Ashford. Ashford was an artists delight. The colors were off the color wheel. The varying shades of purples and greens and chocolate….they were yummy. This place hasn’t stop surprising me. Nothing is as I expected it to be. The nighttime skies here at Ashford completely captivated me. I couldn’t sleep. Watching Orion move across the sky. Visions of those I love crossing my awareness creating a sense of big joy within.
Our hike the next morning into the hills and washes of Ashford were stunning. Displays of a grand master artist in every direction. Wandering more than heading in a direction. Inhaling the spirit of this magical environment. Pain wracking my body today. Feeling depleted..however. This feeling of supreme exhaustion in an extreme situation such as this, fills me with life.
“Wind is a meticulous gardner…” I see this in the desert. The wind is a master out here. Creating beautiful structures in the canyons and rock walls. I hear the songs of the wind. I feel the caressing of it against my skin. I am alive out here.
“If anything grows old gracefully, it is a desert river canyon…this is grace…which i would aspire to..it’s an open question- how to make something beautiful of the pieces that are left after time does the slow work of the river, giving and taking, taking away.” Kathleen Dean Moore
I walk on
With so much love
We left Death Valley to do some re-supply in Lone Pine. Since Davey and the Whitney Hostel are no longer there we stayed at the stand-by and everybodys favorite, The Dow Villa. We decided to stay two nights as a storm was brewing in the desert. What an awesome stay in Lone Pine it was. I actually met two people I had met on FB hiking pages…Reno Dave and Ben Jones. Ben Jones is a semi-retired doctor in Lone Pine. He made note however since he was the only doctor in town he wasn’t necessarily semi retired! Ben ran his first Badwater Run (floor of Death Valley to Whitney, 135 miles) when he was 58. I believe he is now 83 and still very active in the running community. As I was walking out of Looney Bean( the local espresso bar) at 7am, Ben was walking out of a diner. We looked at each other and recognized each other right away. After a big hug we sat and chatted for a bit. It was such a joy to meet such a wonderful man.
Our next destination was Hole in the Wall.The great part about this adventure is that we have a wonderful friend and guide. TAJ knows Death Valley very well. After leaving Furnace Creek we drove for a bit and left the main road onto another bumpy dirt road (part of the journey). About two miles up we set up camp. Once again I was able to sleep under the canopy of stars. It was beyond amazing. The nights were windy and hot. I used my ZPack sleeping bag as a quilt and only slightly thought about the potential of a scorpion joining me for the night!! Falling stars in graceful motion filled the dark midnight skies. One night the most amazing of displays. From the east a burst of fire came hurling towards the west with a stream of light behind it. I gasped in delight hoping I wasn’t the only one to witness it.
The tiniest of birds would sing their morning melodies. It simply amazes me the beautiful songs they sing. Death Valley is so full of life. When one takes a drive through, without venturing off road they won’t see the exquisite beauty that resides in the depths of the valley. The slot canyons are magical. Tiny slit in the walls of a mountain winding its way up. The colors that greet you around every corner put the rainbow to shame.The way the canyons were formed is a result of water and wind, which both play such an immense role in the beauty of the desert.
One day we hiked into the slit canyon. I am still not totally sure what it means..perhaps a narrow slot. It was gorgeous. Big narrow walls rising above us, with the unclouded blue skies above. Magical. We got to a dry fall. This is where a waterfall would occur if there were water. Since there wasn’t, it was a very slick wall that stopped us in our tracks. We backtracked and navigated up and over it. Fun! A little scary. I had lost my poles back at Hidden Dune. TAJ let me borrow his, but the scree(since Patagonia) has always frightened me a bit. I swiped my leg alongside volcanic rock as I was slipping and as a result developed a little desert wound! Up and over and back down into the canyon. There were many ferns and sweet little plants growing all over. It was lovely. This is where I decided to bury the rabbits foot.
A kind of interesting feeling came over me as we were winding our way out. I started walking very slowly. I distanced myself from the group. I began listening intently. I felt….well honestly I felt I was supposed to hear something. A message if you will. Some of you know I believe in messages and signs from spirit guides, or whatever one may chose to call it. I am a spiritual being. Anyway…walking along very slowly . Walking where my body took me. Nothing special occurred . I didnt hear or see anything. But I somehow felt it. I love those moments.
As we continued to do the rest of the trip we sat and chatted over morning coffee what our hike for the day would be. One hike took us through a dry river bed nestled in a deep canyon and then over the top to a saddle in the distant mountain. TAJ made an awesome discovery. He found one, then the other Bighorn Sheep horn. They were beautiful and very old. We built a ceremonial circle around it. The desert evokes the spiritual in all of us I think.
I walk on,with love…
( I found this today and thought how relevant it is to my life. Michael will have been gone for 11 years next month. I wrote this 8 years ago. I hope he looks down with a smile when he sees the paths I have chosen. I think a lot of my life was influenced by the way he lived…and the way he died.In his memory I would like to share this with you…)
I just started running again. For the past three years since my husband passed away it’s just been too hard. But now, on the three year anniversary of his passing, I am ready to run. I am ready to live again.
Michael was an ultra-distance runner. He ran for many reasons. Running was his religion. He ran to escape the inner demons. He ran for camaraderie. He ran for life. Towards the end, he couldn’t run any longer, but, he realized that all the miles, all the effort had led him to this place to run the toughest race of his life, the race to beat the monster that was consuming his body.
Running had taught him to take one step at a time. It taught him that winning wasn’t about the medals or the belt buckles. It was about getting out there and just doing it. It was about inner strength, about faith, about wanting something so bad, that you would do whatever it takes to get there.
Michael started running at the age of 18. He ran around the block once, and threw up. He continued. He ran the Western States 100 miler five times. He ran the Pepsi 72 miler around Lake Tahoe seven times. His marathons numbered over 50 and his ultras over 30. He ran, and then he ran some more…until he couldn’t run any longer.
One of the demons that he faced was the demon of addiction. We as runners have addictive personalities. One of his demons was alcoholism. He figured if he could run 100 miles at a time he could drink whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. As a matter of fact his long time running partner and himself used to run hard every Monday then sit around drinking beer and peach brandy for the rest of the day. Every race was followed by the same. It caught up to him big time. His running began to suffer from it. Injuries started popping up. He used to love run together. All of a sudden he wanted to hurry up and run so we would be done with it. Our runs together were becoming scarce. I was scared. But then, he quit drinking. With the help of AA and amazing people in recovery he never took another sip again.
We started running again. Running the trails with the love of your life is the best. Instead of looking at our watches we were becoming one with our surroundings, with the natural world. It was where we felt the most joy.
We got married on Mt. Hood in Oregon. I remember clearly the morning we were to be married. He had gotten up early to run the mountain with as he liked to call it,”reckless abandon.” He ran so beautifully, and with such power and strength. We ran every trail we could find in the coming years between the mountains and the sea. We experienced so much of natures splendor together.
When he was diagnosed with a very rare form of Pancreatic cancer he looked at me and said,”but, Im not ready to go.” So, he fought. The way he knew. One step at a time. Running had taught him this, recovery had taught him this. One step at a time for two years. But, then he couldn’t fight any longer. Our runs were replaced by very slow beach cruiser rides along West Cliff drive in Santa Cruz. I always rode in front of him because he wanted to know I was always there. I would stop and look back at him,he would always be smiling. I would ask him, how can you smile? His response,” how could I not, I have done everything in my life I wanted to do, life has been so good.”
After he left this life I was looking at the heavens and the stars wishing for a sign from him. After quite awhile I arose and looked out to the patio. His favorite running shoes were sitting there, alone. I don’t know how they got there..it had been at least a year. But, I am sure he had something to do with it. It filled me with a renewed sense of hope.
Today as I run the hills, the beach in the sun and rain, I feel him with me. But now, it’s him supporting me, bringing me back from the long journey of grief. I feel his hand gently pressing me forward. I hear his words quietly reminding me of what running, of what nature can do for my soul. It helps us get through this life and into the next. It prepares us for the worst and lets us celebrate the best.
I love to run. I love the memories of runs past. Remember as you run the trails of your life, to think of those who have passed, and recognize the beauty of the moment and be truly grateful for this moment in time, because it passes so quickly, sometimes before we are ready.
(Thankyou for taking the time to read this. Without Michael in my life I wouldn’t be here, now. I am in a place of total and complete peace with my life and my joy for life carries me forward.”)
I walk on with love…
“There is no place to hide in the desert…so we are found.” Terry Tempest Williams
The desert is pure, raw magic. What one sees from the road can not begin to describe the bounty of gifts awaiting within.
The group rendezvoused in Bishop. Whynot?! and I arrived first, followed by Kirby and TAJ….later in the early morning Atlas rolled in. Our excitement was building. TAJ was to be our resident expert. He had been going into the depths of Death Valley for over 15 years.
Our first destination was Eureka Dunes. A bumpy, dirt road was to be traveled for about two hours. An adventure!!! My first siting of the Dunes was a sentiment that I held throughout the journey, which was,from a distance the reality of the destination is so misconceived. The Dunes looked small compared to what I expected. Upon arrival I was in awe. A massive sand dune created by the winds of the valley loomed above us, and as Greta Ehrlich so brilliantly proclaimed, “The wind is a meticulous gardner.” Like children we were gleeful as we arrived at the base. Setting up camp quickly we began the climb upwards to view the rising full moon. We were the sole humans in the vast desert that surrounded us.
What artistry lay before us. Nature is simply amazing in her ability to create what we can only dream about. We climbed, laughing at the difficulty of each step. Walking along the spine of the Dune, carefully as we realized the fragility of it all. Over an hour of climbing one step forward, two steps backward,slipping and sliding, making our way to the crest. We sat. In silence.
Silence is what the desert required. Silence is what my heart needed.
It is hard to fully grasp all that lies before one in the presence of a place such as this, while in conversation. I wanted to be fully present…another sentiment that filled my being throughout the journey.
As the moon rose over the mountains I sat in prayer. How blessed were we. To be there…at that moment in time. The beauty was beyond anything I had ever witnessed..and as Ben Harper proclaims..”I was blessed to be a witness.” But beyond that, not only a witness, I felt a part of it all. The awareness that I wasn’t just a small presence on the face of this planet, but I was a part of the wild nature that surrounded me. That feeling was powerful. I am a part of nature, not separate but an integral part.
As the moon rose we sat for over an hour fully immersed in the display of light on the mountain, on the desert floor and on the dune we sat on. The light filled my senses with joy. We went down, giddy with delight.
The following day we hiked the perimeter of the massive Eureka Dune. It was beautiful. However the postholing brought back memories of when I was injured during a postholing incident coming down Glenn Pass. The skies were big, bold and beautiful. The sun glaring down on our bodies. Our skin already becoming bronzed from the sun. The moon again lit up the sky in a kaleidoscope of color. I go to bed early every night. The others laugh at me, but I find solace in the star studded skies. Trying to move in unison with the breathe of the desert and its shifting sands.
We hiked for two more days in the dunes. Waking , contemplating and group decision making we would pick a mountain, an alluvial fan…and journey on. Not knowing what to expect was exhilarating.The desert never disappointed.
Our last hike in the area was Hidden Dune. We packed up and drove about an hour down an even bumpier road. It was hard to concentrate on walking as the bounty of rocks captured our attention. We wanted to gather every rock and add to our packs. The colors, sizes, and shapes were a spectacular display of wind, water and rain and their effects on geological forms. Hidden Dune was smaller and hidden from the road. It was breathtaking. I discovered two treasures. One a spear point that TAJ said was like something he had never seen before.It was the color of a light jade. Weathered from the deserts energy it lay hidden for who knows how many years. The other was a rabbits foot. The bones and fur were in place, but obviously very old. I carried both with me, wondering why I had found them. I carried the rabbits foot for another 3-4 days. We were hiking up a slot canyon one day and I had decided it belonged back in the earth. I climbed up to an outcropping that surprisingly had a sand base. I dug a hole and I blessed the rabbits foot. A ceremonial circle of rocks around it and a large heart rock I found and its home was made.
The vastness that surrounded me gave me hope. It made me aware of all the possibilities that lay before me. I felt close to those that have left this life. The desert allows that. I felt so much gratitude to my body for enabling me to do that which I love, surrounding myself in wild nature. I dreamt of those I love. The dreams were vivid and alive. I am alive. Blessed be this journey called life.
My body screamed no. My heart pleaded yes. The struggle continued for seven miles. Seven miles from where I slept until the trail forked. The point at which my body won. My heart lost the battle. The realization of how little control I had settled into my being. I walked off the trail in silent pain and fear for what was to come.
Today, I begin a new journey. My body has healed to a point, after eight very long months, that it is no longer screaming in pain. A gentle acceptance of the non-perfection of my body has settled within. Our walk , our journey begins today. This morning I will pick-up my hiking partner Whynot?!. Our first destination is Mammoth where we will delight in the hot springs, hopefully meeting up with some friends. On to Bishop where we will meet Kirby, TAJ, and Atlas. We drive into the depths of Death Valley on Monday. Our first destination is Eureka Dunes where we will be witness to the full moon rising over the Valley. From there we will base camp and day hike for 2-4 weeks, having a number of different base camps within the valley. My intention is to bring you along…sharing the insights and magic that the desert provides.
In retrospect, there was a gift, as there often is in what seems at the time despair, or pain. As I was hiking out over Bishop Pass I met a man. A kindred soul he was. We chatted for quite awhile. He could feel my pain. He could see my tears. He said that life has a way of taking us from one thing to deliver us to another. “Something beautiful, something you never expected will happen”, he said to me. It did. Magic happened. I met my wild soul on a road trip thru the Pacific Northwest into Montana and Wyoming. I woke up. I realized I was living with one eye open and one eye closed. I fell in love with life again. Everything bloomed before my eyes. I fell in love with love and everything surrounding it.
I walk on…..
our eyes connected from afar
as if we knew each other from another time
the sequoias towering above
stood witness to the instantaneous
born between myself and the young buck with the broker antler
perhaps it was the fragility of our bodies
an inner knowing between like souls
that what once was
was no more
as the trail meandered down the mountain
weaving amongst the large granite boulders
and the swift flowing river
pensively and shattered
trying to keep my sorrow
holding it within
like a long lost friend
i glanced up
from my intense concentration on each and every step
the young buck
was waiting for me
my heart filled with joyful tears and recognition
as i realized with a deep soul awareness
that he was going to escort me down the mountain
with each new step
a tear would fall
and nourish the earth….the tears forming
both from the excruciating pain within
and for the gratitude i felt for my new friend
i was truly humbled by his grace
and his willingness
to take me home
a profound connection was cultivated
at that moment
i knew not who sent him to me
but i didnt need to know
i helped him a little as well
giving a purpose to that one rare moment
in his life
where he felt like he mattered
despite his fragmented antler
but then isn’t it something
we all need
to feel like we matter…
was paved with stories of her past
that dotted white line…went on as far as she could see
as the tears began to flow
she felt a space being created
like the hollowing out of an endless chalice
she realized all the potential that lay ahead
heart pulsating with the raw undeveloped energy of a life yearning to be lived
she felt as if the veil had lifted
and the cage doors open wide
wider than ever before
and then she knew….she could fly
as the doors shut behind her
she turned with arms wide open
heart exposed like the opening of the lotus
and she was ready to live the life enfolding in front of her…
she had met life on life’s terms….and understood what it meant
for the first time…
it was time to let new stories evolve…
the mountains reaching for the stars….
surrounded her like a cocoon
and the warmth of the hues in the changing colors on the lowlands
she felt accepted, loved and a part of the ever-changing palate
the emerging seasons before her
reminiscent of her life
forever with love.
i am wondering if you are interested in my journey…you know i was forced off the trail….but i followed a different path…if you would like me to continue this blog…please let me know
who made the swan and the black bear?
who made the Grasshopper?
This Grasshopper, I mean..the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth, instead of up and down
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down, into the grass, how to kneel down, how to be idle and blessed and how to stroll through the field,
which is what i have been doing all day.
Tell me what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
What a crazy couple of weeks. I was looking at so many options of getting back on the trail. Once decided I couldn’t wait any longer. David dropped me off at the Paradise Valley Trailhead in Cedar Grove at Kings Canyon National Forest at 11:30 am. I was so happy just to start walking again, with a pack on my back, and very high hopes.
It was really hot. I mean sweat streaming down my face hot. I mean stopping every 15 minutes to take a drink hot. I recognized right off that I had lost strength, stamina and any acclimating I had acquired during the first 800 miles of my PCT walk. It was going to be a long 15 mile climb. I was climbing up to meet my friend Rockin at Woods Creek, where I had left the Rodents, Whynot?! and Spirit three weeks prior.
Trying not to pay any attention at all to the little nagging sensations in my back I kept my eyes open for perhaps a friendly bear, or even my escort, the sweet, injured deer that was my guide a couple of weeks ago. The fast flowing King River kept energy flowing into my weary body. I was slowing quickly. I realized the pain was reappearing. A slight twinge in the original right side Sacro-iliac joint, soon dissipated and an ever-increasing knife sharp pain into my left glute. I never have left side body pain, ever. But it was there, and I feared it wasn’t going away. Trying to keep the momentum, but with a sinking heart I felt my PCT was over for this year.
I made it to Woods Creek at 6:30pm. It took so long to get there. My steps had slowed to a very weak pace. Rockin was there with her contagious smile and laughter. After she shared with me her adventures hiking down from Rae Lakes, I shared my bad news. We decided to wake early and see how I felt in the morning. I dreamt that night. What I remember most, was that I was falling. I was falling hard. Right before I hit bottom, I jerked and I awoke.
It was 5 am and Rockin was taking off. I decided to stay one night at Woods Creek and go back out the way I came in. I lay there falling in and out of sleep for about two hours. During that time period a little voice, or spirit or energy suggested I give it one more try. I reevaluated my food situation. I originally planned on 5 days from Woods Creek to Reds Meadow, where I would pick up my next re-supply. That was walking 20 miles a day. That was impossible I knew at this point. I was hurting and needed to go slower. I wasn’t that hungry anyway! I figured out how to make my food last by eating a little less.
Off I went. I wanted to get up and over Pinchot Pass. Thats all. I originally planned on hiking over both Pinchot and Mather, but figured Pinchot was good enough. It was tough. Really tough. Digging to the depths tough. I felt as though I had never acclimated. The new ULA OHM pack wasn’t making me happy. The nerves in my feet that had recently been shot up with cortisone were acting as if they hadn’t. But, I could only give attention to my left side. It was hurting. But, I was walking. The birds were singing their songs. The river was sending energetic waves of possibility. The air was clean, and fresh, and pure. The wildflowers were in bloom. And, I was walking. The pass was spectacular. A storm looked like it was brewing and the winds were getting stronger, so I sat for only a minute. But, the feeling inside…..YES!!! I am on my way. I can do this. Injury or no. I want this.
I walked all day. I camped along the south fork of the King river. A few other campers, but it was quiet, and peaceful, and lovely. I cowboy camped as I do. It was different cowboy camping alone. I wasn’t afraid, but it was different. It’s not like the walls of my tent could protect me from anything!!! I wasn’t much hungry again, but I ate a little. I dreamt again. This time , I was falling faster and the jolt to save myself before hitting bottom, was even bigger than the night before.
I decided to start walking earlier as I needed to get over Mather and close enough to Muir for the next days ascent. I was walking by 5 am. Trying not to focus on my back, but it was getting a little more difficult. All my energy was going towards protecting further injury and I had none to give the walk. I believe I was depleting energy stores, quickly. I decided I needed to force myself to eat. I was still so stoked to be out there. I wasn’t going to let the pain take me away. I got energy from the mighty old Sequoia trees. So majestic, and strong and beautiful. The pass at Mather. I was doing it. But, I was tired. I had lost so much. I was still determined. The descent down Mather took a toll on me. The down had typically been the worst, and it was. With every step I had to remember which foot to reach with. This section of the trail was very rocky, with high step ups and step downs. I was growing really concerned and had many miles to go if I wanted to climb Muir the next day. I looked at my maps. Grouse Meadow. I spent a night at Grouse Meadow last year when I hiked the John Muir Trail. I had met a guy, Tom, who I hiked with for about a week. We camped at Grouse Meadow. It was lovely. I remember him knocking on my tent at 4am asking if I wanted to star gaze. We went out along the river and lay upon this large rock, side by side gazing at the stars for about an hour before we packed up and went on our way. This memory propelled me forward. I would camp there again. I found the same lovely spot, sheltered by the trees and a very large boulder. I could gaze upon the stars and the grassy meadow with the mountains looming above. I swam in the river and rejuvenated. I made plans. I figured that I was fine. I could do the whole thing!!! The pain would go away. It had to.
I dreamt again. The fall was faster and much more furious. The jolt before I hit bottom threw me off my sleep pad. I was awake. I was listening. I could barely rise from the ground. I knew I was in trouble.
I packed up slower than the previous mornings. I knew I was finished. The pain was just too intense. I was taking pain medications. It shouldn’t be like this. This is not how I wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada. I got my maps out and discovered one exit I didn’t know about. I gave myself time though to make my final decision. The turnoff wasn’t for a couple of miles. That couple of miles took me almost 3 hours. It was much too slow. It was much too painful. I had to admit to myself. It was over. For now.
The hike up and over Bishop Pass was long. Not in miles, it was only 14 miles. But long because I didnt want it to end. I love the trail so much. I learned so much about myself during this PCT attempt. I am much stronger than I ever realized. I know if I hadn’t attempted the last section I would have wondered. I did get a little angry though, at one point when I thought I had no choice but to call for help. I was only in trouble, because I let myself get into trouble. I just know how short life can be. I know how ever so quickly it can be taken away. The trail showed me that the path is always changing. And that this change, is glorious. That this change, no matter how painful, is a life lesson. We can endure the toughest of situations, because we know, as nature has taught us so well, that this too will pass. This too will pass.
I ran into a fellow walker on the trail. I could tell he felt my pain by the way he looked at me. He said,” you know, this only means one thing, something truly un-expected and wonderful is about to happen to you this summer.” My shining light. I was grateful for those kind words. My friend David said,” enjoy the healing.” That also affected me greatly. I have never thought about enjoying the healing process. But in contemplating that, how joyful a process to witness. Watching the body morph, from unwell into well!!! Yes!! I am on my way.
I will walk the PCT. Not this year, but I will walk it. For now, I will heal and plan my next adventure. It is in the works. I can’t sit idle for too long. I will heal. I will live this one wild and precious life with passion….
I will walk on , and always with love
I spent the night in Bishop. I dreamt. I was falling hard and fast. I had fallen off the curb. I landed. I was okay……
” Until one is committed, there is hesitancy. The chance to draw back concerning all acts of initiative(and creation) there is one elementary truth, that ignorance of which kills endless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits, oneself, then Providence moves also. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manor of unforeseen incidental meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin now.” von Goethe I found myself sitting at the ocean most mornings since I have been here in Santa Cruz. Yesterday, the walls I had built around my heart in these 2 short weeks, came tumbling down. I was reading a book entitled,”When Things Fall Apart,” by Pema Chodron. A lovely Buddhist book about life and some ways to deal with difficult times. I had been reading the book for a number of days, but yesterdays reading touched me deeply. She spoke about the need for compassion for self, before we can feel it for others. Tears fell. I have always said that my greatest wish was that I could inspire others through my path. How could I do that if I couldn’t care about myself? The anger I felt towards my body, dissipated. The space it created in my heart has allowed me to feel again. This morning, the pain in my body has dissipated. I am committed. I am taking flight. Because , as John Muir so profoundly stated,”for going out, I found I was really going in.”
During this morning of awareness I thought of family and friends going through difficult times. I connected with a few, either through conversation, words, or prayer. I told them I truly cared, and if I could take some of their pain I would so that they could be free.
I realized I had built fairly significant walls around myself. I didn’t even look at the ocean the first few days I was home. I didnt want to see people and have them question me about my hike. I felt so defeated. But as a dear friend said, “Grasshopper, don’t feel defeated, the mountain doesn’t feel victorious .”
These walls I erected shut people out. I created a deep sense of loneliness. However, until yesterday I couldn’t even see my part. These self imposed walls created such suffering. I shut out people who were new in my life. They wanted to get to know me. The problem was, I couldn’t understand why. I pushed them away. A few, who I got in, just a little bit, I eventually turned them away too. Please know, I am sorry. It wasn’t you. It was me.
I spoke with my mentor Tatu Jo the same day. I told him my plan to hike southbound. He adamantly proclaimed,” No! why aren’t you listening to me?”Well, I wasn’t listening because I couldn’t hear anything. But his suggestion was to start from where I left off. He said my hike would be so much more gratifying. He suggested I walk as far as I could and if weather holds I may be able to continue my thru hike. If not jump to Canada and walk south. I am so grateful to him for his support thru my craziness. He has so much wisdom in regards to the trail and life. I agreed , it was the very best plan.
The Sierra Mountains reside in my heart. While walking the JMT last year I experienced such a spiritual connection and I look forward to those moments of exquisite connection . I will embrace it fully.
I am getting a ride to the trailhead from a dear friend David. Another friend also offered. I have such deep gratitude. It isn’t a short drive. I am touched. A friend in the hiking community Christy “Rockin” Rosander asked if she could join as her hike in Oregon and Washington had to be postponed a bit due to weather. She is very experienced and I look forward to hiking with her for a few weeks, or however long she will stay with me until she hops north. I just hope I don’t hold her back too much. It will only take me a couple days to get my strength back and I should be as good as new!!
I walk on, With Love
After two and one half weeks of rest, I will be getting back on the trail. I am giddy with excitement. Not expectation, but yearning to be back inside of natures home. The four walls which surround me have been stifling. Looking out I see houses, I hear cars, and I feel trapped in a reality that no longer serves me, nor do I serve it. My heart yearns to be out where the words and actions of others don’t hurt me. For, it is in nature that I can understand more readily the fluctuations of life. The simple act of walking allows me to let go and not hold on, to that which creates tears in my heart. The physical exhaustion of the trail contributes to the wholeness I feel out there. I know I am alive, and I am surrounded by life, not by cement and exhaust and walls. I am free to be me. I know I can’t always be on the trail and I have recognized the fact that I will relocate to a place nearer the mountains, once this walk is over. The ocean has always given so much to me. I find her waters though have gotten crowded. Crowded with people. Crowded with the ill effects of over-population.I will always come back to the ocean for healing and for remembering. So many of my loved ones that are now gone are an integral part of the oceans waters, and I find such peace knowing they are there.
I have pondered many hours these past couple of weeks as to why I am here? Why was I forced off the trail, when I was so happy out there? I don’t know if I have an answer. I don’t know if even there is an answer. I do know, that perhaps, I was called home for a reality check. Perhaps I needed to be here, in order to be there. Meaning, I was doing a lot of thinking while on the trail about my home, my friends, my family and possibilities. I feel now, when I get back on the trail, I will be, on the trail. I had a teacher in Bali once who remarked on my many mishaps while there. She said, “Laura, while you were running, you weren’t running and while you were walking along the waters edge, you were elsewhere; be, where you are.” So perhaps, it was just another lesson of returning to the moment.
I have tried to sit and write so many times the past couple of weeks. The inspiration for writing wasn’t there. The noise cluttered my thoughts. The negative emotions surrounding me made it difficult to find that place within that creativity stirs. I went to the oceans edge almost daily to be calm and contemplative, but still, the words wouldn’t come.
There has been a white butterfly in my garden since I have been home. A constant companion in a lonely kind of a place. My daughters ,always in my heart bringing me joy. I am blessed for that. I have been riding my beach cruiser along the oceans edge, the wind off the ocean, the smiles of old friends, the conversations with those that have become enamored with my journey on the trail have given me joy.
When my body doesn’t perform as I hope, I get a little down. I get to a place of non-acceptance. Even, a little anger. But then I am reminded that it is such a minor situation in the grand picture. My dearest friend was diagnosed with Epilepsy. He can’t drive. He can’t surf. He can’t practice his martial art. His memory is dissipating. He is angry. His sense of who he is is diminishing as he must let others do what he was once able to do for himself. And, I am kept from him for reasons that are too difficult to explain. When we are able to see each other, I just tell him how much I love him. He tells me, how blessed I am to be following my heart. When I leave, I weep. I just have a back-ache, to keep me from doing what I want to be doing.
I will meet WhyNot?! and Atlas in Sierra City. Whoohooo!!!! The three of us will be on the tails of Poco and Spirit who are down the line a bit. So many folks have caught up and I look forward to meeting new people out there. My hope is to get to Canada early September, and return to the Sierra’s and make-up the 400 miles I missed. Then, hopefully get back to Washington for the ALDHA gathering. Dreams. But without dreams, we wither. Without reaching we lose strength. Possibilities abound. I look forward to the starry skies to lull me to sleep. To the flowing waters to nourish me and cleanse my body. To the mountains to inspire me and give me hope. To the trail and all that awaits around the bend.
I walk on. With Love.