Sunday, September 7, 2014

Why are you doing this?

Invariably the question of Why are you doing the hike?  will be asked of me.  In my case, it is mostly about my doing the hike solo.  I have been a hiker all my life.  All my low and high points, transitions, challenges, reconnecting, letting go, getting closer, major decisions have taken place in nature or I have processed them in nature.  Most of them alone and all of them while hiking (sometimes running, climbing or swimming).  Being alone allows me to be in my own space, rythm and get grounded.  I don't think or ponder, I just let the rythm of my feet on the ground and my breath do its work.  I get bigger, more spacious, confident, feel at home in nature. When I meet people or simply reconnect with them, I ask them to take a walk with me in nature or a natural environment.  I get stifled, closed in, stuck, boxed in indoors.  And I have always wanted to figure things out, do them on my own.  "Alone" was apparently my favorite word as a little kid - meaning let me try to do it on my own. 

I find that in order to be in synch with myself and nature I sometimes have to be out of synch and with others.  I deliberately pause when others walk, walk when others pause.  I go earlier or later than others.  I camp away from others, I walk in a different direction.  I don't want to be attuned or attuning or attaching or even denying myself any movement that I need to do or feels right to me.  I want to be able to get close or distant, start or end, stop or run when I need to.  

John Muir describes nature like a lover his muse and beloved.  I also feel a feminine energy in nature, like a homecoming, like being embraced by a loving, generous all-encompassing being that is accepting and allowing - it just is and let's you be just as you are.  Being in synch with nature means for me to accept reality and trust myself and whatever the challenge and gift is in front of me to be just that - a challenge and a gift that makes me grow, love, learn, experience, live and laugh.

On this hike, I wanted to be on the mountain pass with time by myself, wanted nobody behind or in front of me as I hiked (it makes me feel pushed to walk too fast or I slow down to not bump into them).  I wanted this experience to be solely my own, create it, shape it, feel it and do it.  I wanted to allow any emotion to fill me, take it in, be with it, let it wash over me and then flow on - joy, anxiety, irritation, sadness, gratitude, amazement, awe, tiredness. 

I wanted to let myself be proud of even the tiniest moment and achievement.  I did victory dances over lighting my stove in the wind, setting up my tent in the perfect spot, spending time at night in the dark under the moon and stars, bravely fending off intimidating bear and coyote spirits that were all around me. I hollered, smiled and sat with the feeling for a long time.  I laughed at my own silliness, moaned in anticipation of the cold water I jumped into,  and again when trying a new flavor of couscous- a highlight in my day:) I cried over the beauty of this world and with gratitude for being in it at this moment in this place, knowing how much love and care surrounded me from my family and friends.

Most people understood this, some thought it was unsafe.  I never felt unsafe but very careful, cautious and deliberate.  Many women felt inspired to do the same and congratulated me and wished me well on my journey.  I met more women than men and more women solo hikers than men. 

The John Muir wilderness has been in my mind ever since I saw Yosemite Valley when driving across country after college.  It has stayed with me through all these years.  Once I found out that there is a trail, it took about 10 seconds for me to decide that this year was the year to do it.  And so I did.

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