As I hiked through the trees and meadows the quietness was so loud it almost hurt my ears. I stopped my huffing, puffing and stick crunching to listen. Nothing. It was a sound so seldom heard in this world anymore that I didn’t know whether to embrace it or fear it. I continued on with mind-noise rattling around in my head, as it often did when I hiked. “Isn’t it odd that we are using these trails for recreation?” I thought to myself. The more I had read about history, the more I had learned that most of the current trails in today’s wilderness were created not for enjoyment, but for a solid purpose. They were a survival tool for sheepherders looking to graze their flock in high alpine meadows or for Native Americans to stalk goats and deer and gather edible plants. The paths I walked were the very same ones that had been used for years for vitality. I pictured small loin-clothed children with dark braids playing hide and seek behind trees and rocks. “Wait...did they really look like that, or have I become a victim of media animation?” I wondered. The thought passed quickly and my mind went back to the daydream of all of those who sought bounty and value from the earth ascending these trails. Yet, I hiked up here not to feed a herd or gather berries or to slaughter wildlife. I was one of many who rambled through this ear-piercing silence without a vital purpose. But why?
Why did this bead of sweat just creep off my forehead into my eye on the side of this challenging trail? I wiped my brow again and stopped to catch my breath. “Did the Native people sweat like this?” It was a funny thought, which made me smile and briefly I pondered if their daily fitness and healthy diet made them some sort of super beings. After all, they were eating the nutritious antioxidants of huckleberries with a side of salmon’s omega 3s and other wild proteins. I resolved that they must have been incredibly fit and went on thinking about my personal journey. What was I doing out here? Why am I writing a book on the location of these trails so that others, like me, can wander through here without a mission? I knew why, and felt my brain unbury the answer into consciousness.
As I climbed one of the lingering, consolidated snow piles that sat stubbornly on the trail and heard the unmistakable swish-swash of slush under my feet, I felt alive. I felt happy and fulfilled. I felt healthy, both physically and mentally. Instead of thinking about bills or email or deadlines, I walked through larch, pines and wildflowers with a buzzing busy brain and a grateful happy heart. My mind-noise had led me down a trail of thankfulness and gratitude for those whose purpose was greater. I stopped again to let the silence soak into my ears and cleared my mind’s slate for the next revelation.