Friday, August 10, 2012

those gone before

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.

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