Tag Archives: Hiking for emotional well-being

Crying in the forest

It has been awhile. Too long actually. And with the passage of time comes inevitably the melancholy when the memory is revisited. It is has been too long since she hiked in a pine forest, Ponderosa Pine to be specific. Each step forward, each thought, each memory is enough to make her cry. The Sunshine filtering through the needle laden branches, the soughing and lowing-strong but not howling-is urgent in the wind and she cries for what was, feels a touch of anguish for what could have been and was not. Every sensation she feels calls her to weep. The present beauty is devastating. It evokes memories of what has passed. She realizes, even as she puts one foot in front of the other, she is still clinging to the past, still trying to figure out how to fix what went wrong, how to make things right. Perhaps it is time to let go of the past and move into the future-her very own future. The fresh air and evergreen trees seem to nudge her forward. But the thought of what the future can be is painfully dazzling. Can she really leave the past behind? Is it right to let go and move forward?

Twenty steps forward the beauty subtly changes. Without warning she steps into a part of the woods that has been ravaged by fire. Scorched from the ground up to about 20 feet high on the bark of the pines. Burned pieces of log litter the ground like the remains of a giant’s campfire. It is not clear who or what started the fire. It happened. Yet, there is still beauty here. She notices that the trees grew, continued to move forward. Forgetting what was behind – unashamed of their blackened scorched trunks –the trees were green at the top, reaching toward the sky without slackening their pace. Brilliant fall-colored foliage peaked out here and there along the ground. She stops in her tracks to contemplate. If the forest can survive a fire and move on, so can I. So can you.

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The best season ever

It is fall and I am nearly giddy. Something broke in me yesterday. Some chain or bondage or oppression – I think it was the heat. Today I took my morning walk and rejoiced at being alive, stopped and talked with my neighbors, started to think I will survive this leg of my life’s journey. Over these past 10 years of being alone and single, I have often pointed out that Nature loves you back. I go for a walk; I am refreshed. I take a long hike; I am restored. Yes. Nature loves me, feeds me and cares for me. But Nature does not coddle. Nature can be brutal. This year I have been in the desert. This year I felt Nature abused me with the heat – and then turned around and comforted me with a lake. But that is behind me now. The weather has turned. It is nearly time for sweaters and hoodies. Definitely time to plan those long weekend hikes to all the beautiful places.

 

Crème Brûlée and the Great Outdoors

It was a familiar, though unwelcome, feeling. There were things she couldn’t fix. Too many things. Challenges without recourse. Problems without solutions. Insidiously, the depression crept in. Numbing of emotion. Flat-lining of feeling. No dreams, no desire for anything.

Instinctively she retreated to the beauty of nature – a long hike in the wilderness. The remedy learned with the wisdom of years.

It was wiltingly hot when she locked the car and started out, but she was headed for a shady glen. A sandy trail led into a canyon, crisscrossed a gurgling stream. Moss-covered rocks lay calm and green in the water. Up ahead sandstone mountains sported a variety of coniferous vegetation and a burst of blue sky.

Each step was refreshment. Return of vigor of thought. Hope for the future.

Typically she could judge distance by the state of her emotions. It usually took about a mile for the tension to begin to loosen- sometimes two.

About a mile and a half out she turned. The afternoon was waning. Finding the end of the canyon would have to wait for another time. Then, just like clockwork, her appetite returned. Appetite – the signal of lifting depression. This time she craved crème brûlée or custard or flan. She hungered. But not for egg rolls – her usual fantasy food.

“How odd,” she thought, “right out here in the wild and I can almost smell dessert cooking, wafting warm and sweet from the kitchen.”

It was then she realized she was striding through a stand of ponderosa pine, inhaling great gulps of air two feet away from thick sun-warmed trunks. And ponderosa are known by their faint vanilla scent.

Dream on, Happy Wanderer. And may all your desires and appetites be healthful.

 

I smiled yesterday

I smiled yesterday. Smiled despite the excessive heat and the gritty dust and sand and the annoying no see ums. I smiled and it felt a little strange, a little different than the furrowed brow and stressed frown that has become part of my office attire. I smiled involuntarily because I went out to meet Nature and I found her. I found the road less traveled. And yet that road-cautioned as unimproved – was actually a well- graded dirt road that led to somewhere; somewhere famous and beautiful. Grosvenor Arch is about 20 miles from Cannonville, Utah in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is featured on a sticker that I buy and sell hundreds of regularly – one of those stickers for National Parks Passport Books. It is beautiful. Grosvenor Arch is named after Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor – known as the father of photojournalism – the president of National Geographic Society – and a friend of National Parks. Grosvenor Arch is situated fittingly as a neighbor to Kodachrome Basin State Park.

And here’s the thing; Grovesnor Arch is way out there on the dirt road, yet there is a sign. More noticeably, there is a concrete path that leads from the parking area up towards the arch. This path has resting benches along the way. The path is intentionally constructed and maintained to lead visitors to the best possible view of the arch – the photographer’s perspective. The path ends in a pedestrian cul-de-sac that clearly indicates “stand here.” “Take a photo here.” And still Nature beckons me deeper into the juniper forest, the cool cleft of the rock. Beauty restores. Nature refreshes. And Nature makes me smile.

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Getting Back Your Best Game

She was new to this place and it had been a grueling two months. The face in the mirror looked her age – no longer youthful and refreshed. She had slipped into working every day of her life (again) in a mad bid to catch up, to get settled, to get a grip. BTDT in her twenties. Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops for a season – but she knew it was now time to get her game back.

She insisted on a half day off. It was only herself she argued with. She made herself take it. Half day out of seven, but it was a start in the right direction. She took a long hike. She sloshed her feet through the sand and water at the edge of the river and let the rushing water chill the raging worry and the work addiction within her. She sat on a rock in perfect spring sunshine. It turned out to be a comfortable rock – so comfortable she leaned back and closed her eyes and hazarded letting her mind drift like the gently gurgling riffle.

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How long had it been since she said that phrase, “These are the best years of my life?” She used to mean it. Now life felt suspiciously like some of the earlier years; grasping, gasping for survival.

She longed to laugh at a well-turned phrase, to feel the wind of adventure in her face, to see and hear new beauty.

“Take a look back,” she said to herself, “What were you doing? When was the last time you felt, really felt you were at the top of your game? The last time you said with sincerity, ‘These are the best years’?”

She remembered those deeply spiritually reviving days of living on the edge of beautiful places, of hiking before the heat of the day, of watching a sunrise, of strolling a beach at sunset. Times of letting nature nourish and nurture.

Those were the times she was dating herself; taking herself to an event or a concert-traveling – finding how to love herself so she might in turn love her neighbor as herself.

Those were the times she was eating with thought and care and great appetite for the healthful.

Those were the times she tucked into bed at a comfortable hour and woke naturally without necessity of an alarm or agenda.

So now, lounging on the rock like a lizard, she pondered, “How did I get to that soul- healthy position in the first place?” Part of it was a product of a resolution to live the next 365 days as though they were all she had. Part of it was allowing herself to be steeped in music and art.

She had a well-balanced brain and at one time had made the decision to live more fully in her right brain – her creative brain – with her organized left brain always guiding her. Now she wondered if it was possible to live in her left brain – forge ahead in organizational success –while letting her right brain guide her.   It was a grand experiment.

She didn’t want to give up the corporate part of life – the paycheck. Some of the best times of life to be had are times when you share with others. Her one big reason for having a job, for making money, was to have something to share.

But now she knew it was time to nourish and nurture that spiritual side again. Not all day. Not in lieu of the practical, but every single day in tandem with the practical.

More nature

More exercise out of doors

More music

More love

Less addiction to work stress and more commitment to working smart

Managing smarter

Embracing the beauty in work

Mini vacations

Why do you work? What do you love? What nurtures and nourishes your soul?

 

 

A hiking mentor

I live here, but I am new.

She is my guest, but she has been here many times before.

I am getting acquainted with all the trails and only take the long ones on weekends – days off from work.

She knows this place like the back of her hand.

I live in housing with four walls and have not yet camped seven miles out under the stars.

She has spent many October birthday weeks 4 X 4 camping at the end of Salt Creek and taking daily forays further into the wilderness.

Salt Creek is closed to wheeled vehicles now, open only to those visitors on foot. But she remembers exploring after hearty dinners around the campfire.

She is older than I – not much-but her memory is sharp. Her memories are good. Very good. This is her favorite place.

Now she is showing me around, introducing me to my own neighborhood. “Right over this hill,” she says, “right around this rock, I found a couple granaries and pictographs I don’t think the rangers know about. Over there, you can see a panel if you have binoculars. The ranger pointed that out, but I have never seen it.”

There are other things she teaches me too, like how to eat well while hiking or camping. What to prepare. Which items to bring. What footwear to choose.

Hiking alone is always inspiring. Wandering is fine. But sooner or later you need a hiking mentor to show you the good stuff.

I doubt I will ever attain her status – the ability to cook chicken cacciatore for eight and then pack it to the hut on Nordic skis.

But I do aspire to her confidence and belief in the abilities of others. Also, her calm patience when backtracking for a lost camera. The camera that carelessly slipped from my pocket and to the ground right after I took the eagle picture. The backtrack that added an extra mile to the ten for which I had steeled myself. The backtrack that we felt acutely in the heat of the day on the last two miles that terminated our trek and restored us to hot running water.

Never-the-less, we venture on another trail today, unflagging. Well-guided. Mentored. Ever learning.

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Trust at Rattlesnake Arches

The foremost reason I hike is for emotional health.   I love it.  Can’t live without it.  What others find healthful in prayer or meditation, I find in walking out in nature. Clarity, soul–refreshment. The added benefit, of course, is physical health. And way down in tertiary position is the word goal or success.

Nevertheless, I hiked to Rattlesnake Arches last week and thus chalked up another score for the bucket list. It was a goal well-met; a decision well-made. Despite the urging of some friends not to go alone and others not to take my Subaru, I set my face toward the arches and I went.

DSCN7678jeeproadThere are two ways to get to the arches.  From the North; a seven-mile hike in and through Rattlesnake Canyon with a seven-mile return.  From the South; a seven-mile dirt road, connecting to 1.5 miles of jeep road and then two miles on foot. I chose the dirt road thinking at any time to pull over and hoof it the rest of the way.  It was my lucky day.  The dirt road was freshly graded.  The Red Pearl made it the full seven miles – at 10 miles per hour.  Trucking on down the Jeep road in my bald tennies; I came upon this wondrous sign:

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Solitude.  Oh how I love that word.  On my way in, I met a lone cyclist, on the road out only one vehicle. I was alone, in utter solitude for a seven-mile radius.  There are times I need the counsel and restoration of friends and times I need to be alone, self-paced, quiet, in self-examination.

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Cresting the hill, canyons and valleys of the Colorado River stretch out before me, on into ruby colored sandstone and to Utah. The world is so vast. I am so very small. Instantly I trust.

The fear which chronically dogs me, is utterly gone.  I rest. Finally in the arms of Nature. There is nothing I can do.  Nothing for me to fix, manipulate or take responsibility for.  It is beyond me.  And yet, all will be most well. It is in the hands of the supernatural. 

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