Time Out

This is my last day of a one-week vacation.  Instead of going somewhere, a friend came down for a week of hiking in the area.  I managed to disconnect from my day job completely.

The reality is that work is going on without me.  I may have a few messes to fix when I get back, but those messes probably would have happened whether I was there or not.  And if I weren’t there, someone else would figure out how to clean them up.

I choose to take from this the lesson that if there is time for me to take a week away, there is time for me to take a breath during the day.  There is time for me to stop at a reasonable hour and pick up again the next day.  There is time for me to take care of myself regardless of what messes come up.

I re-learned the truth of how important unplugged time is to me.  Going out into the wilderness where there were no sounds besides the wind blowing through the trees, water tumbling over rocks, and occasional conversation with my friend brought with it a sense of connectedness with the world around me that hours in front of a computer cannot achieve.

The computer, whether for work or just for fun, takes me away from the here and now.  Choosing footholds along a rocky trail puts me intensely in the present moment in a way that’s hard to achieve typing on a keyboard or reading an email.

I also re-learned the power of physical exertion.  The sense of aliveness and appreciation for every bone, muscle, blood cell in my body intensifies as the trail becomes more challenging.  The ability to move myself rhythmically up a steep rocky climb turns into a sense of power and wonder.  The body is a marvelous thing to inhabit when it’s working well.

And, I re-learned the joy of pushing limits just a little.  Hiking with a friend who hasn’t hiked much helped keep me from over-doing.  It kept the soreness to a minimum and allowed me to enjoy what I was capable of without suffering what might otherwise have been the pain of over-exertion.  Happy medium is called “happy” for a really good reason.

Taking time away also gave me the time and energy to consider alternative possibilities.  The freed energy led to imagination and my imagination went wild.  At the end of a week of time “off”, I find myself full of hope.  Hope that I can make time for what is most important to me.  Hope that anything truly is possible.  Hope that life can be joyful on a daily basis.  Hope that I can return to my “normal” life and make it a little less normal and a little more peaceful.  Hope that if I can do that, the world as a whole can be more peaceful, too.

It was a good vacation.


Savage Falls

One of the things I love the most about hiking is the solitude.  There is nothing like hearing only the wind whistling quietly through the trees.  It’s like the secrets of the universe being spoken quietly in your ear.

When we did the Stone Door hike, we were surprised at the solitude we found.  In spite of it being a short, easy trail that started out with a paved segment, we only saw people going the opposite direction.  At the top of Stone Door, a breeze blew through the pines and we enjoyed that hard-to-find solitude that usually only less accessible wilderness offers.

For me, this sense of solitude somehow always generates a wondrous feeling of connectedness in what might be one of life’s great paradoxes.  It was so palpable at the top of Stone Door that I had to set my camera aside for 10 minutes and just sit and listen to the wind and feel part of life.

When we decided to walk at least part of the Savage Gulch Day Loop trail, we thought we might see even fewer people–it’s more remote.

When we arrived at the parking lot, another couple was getting ready to head down the trail.  I overheard the man ask the woman, “Got what’cha need?  Need what’cha got?” What a profound question.  One of the greatest mistakes I’ve made in my lifetime is not asking the second question.  But I digress.

Tisen has been limping and so have we, so we didn’t expect to make it all the way around the 5 mile loop trail.  We also got a bit confused because there are about 5 trails that converge with the loop trail.  So, we didn’t start out with the intention of going to Savage Falls, but that’s where we ended up.  But we were OK with having gotten slightly lost–who can resist a waterfall?

When we arrived at Savage falls, we were a little jealous of the people swimming in the water.  We contemplated getting in, but we didn’t see a good path for Tisen to get down to the water and Tisen has put on a few too many pounds to be carried easily.  So, we sat in the shade and watched.

I attempted to shoot with my 100-400mm lens since there was enough of a crowd that my 24-70mm wasn’t giving me tight enough compositions.  Plus, I was shooting for a lot of depth of field, so I figured my faster lens wasn’t doing me that much good anyway.

There were two wrong assumptions about this.  First, the faster lens has an easier time focusing no matter what aperture I have it set on.  Second, the shorter focal length is easier to hold still even though that lens lacks Image Stabilization.

But, I did my best to steady the lens.  If only my subjects would have held still–I had to refrain from yelling “freeze!” at the couple under the water fall.

Crossing Bridges

I love my dog.  I love him for many reasons, but today, it’s because every day he reminds me that we can learn, we can grow, we can be completely different than we were before.

How many times do we hear people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?  As someone who strives to learn every day, I know first hand how hard it can be to undo decades of habit to do the thing I will myself to do.  Many days, I feel like it’s an impossibility.  Then, I have days when I do things like fly off a mountain in a hang glider and I know that anything is possible.  But, sometimes I walk away thinking that maybe flying off a mountain in a hang glider doesn’t ultimately change anything at all.

That’s where Tisen comes in.

Tisen has transformed himself from a nearly-dead street dog to a urban-dwelling, middle-class gentleman who likes to hike.  He wants to make me happy.  That’s his bottom line.  While I’m not sure I could handle a person being so into me, in a dog, it’s kind of nice.

When we went to Savage Gulf Natural Area to hike the other day, we encountered something called a suspension bridge.  The dreaded structure was not the kind of suspension bridge you drive over, but rather a flexing, swinging, bouncing rope-and-wood bridge meant for no more than 2 pedestrians at a time.  These bridges make me nervous; I have no idea what they are like for a dog.  For Tisen, it was clearly a gauntlet of terror.

First, he would not step onto the bridge at all.  I walked across first to give him a reason to cross.  Then Pat came behind, encouraging Tisen to come with him.  Tisen considered climbing down a sheer rock cliff to the stream below over walking onto the bridge, but Pat managed to get him up the entrance ramp to the bridge.  But there, he stopped.  It wasn’t until Pat had crossed and Tisen was left standing alone that he decided he’d better cross.

He made it all the way across the gulch (which really wasn’t so far below as to be completely terrifying), got to the top of the exit ramp, stared down at me with his longing eyes, then eye-balled the ramp down to me and decided he’d had enough.  He turned around and went all the way back across the gulch.

We managed to coax him back across and all the way to land on the other side.  We completed our hike to Savage Falls and then wondered what was going to happen on the way back across.  When we got to the suspension bridge, I went across first, Pat coaxed Tisen up to the bridge, and Tisen led the way across looking like he’d been crossing suspension bridges most of his life.

In about an hour, Tisen transformed himself from a ‘fraidy cat to a top dog.  He’s my hero.