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.

Descent Below Stone Door

Once we reached the bottom of the Stone Door, we continued downward beyond both sets of manmade stairs.  If we’d been feeling more in shape, we might have gone all the way to the bottom of the valley.  However, it was Christmas Day and we weren’t prepared to make the return climb back up, so we limited our descent to a distance we could comfortably climb back up.

The path went through fallen outcroppings of rocks.  Rough natural steps were formed (or maybe occasionally placed) from the fallen limestone.  But the steps were uneven with cracks and slippery spots.  I nearly fell on more than one occasion while working my way down one of the larger rocks.  All I could think was “protect the camera.”

When we reached the point we decided would be the end of our descent, we stopped and looked back.  The outcropping we’d been standing on earlier looked a little more frightening in the context of the enormous chunk of fallen rock we’d just scrambled down–particularly when we saw just how much that overlook juts out from the cliffside.

An example of a rock shelf that looks like it will slide off down the hill at any time

An example of a rock shelf that looks like it will slide off down the hill at any time

Looking back at the overlook we'd been standing on, we realize how much of an overhang their is

Looking back at the overlook we’d been standing on, we realize how much of an overhang their is

So much of the stone looked like it was precariously perched, just waiting for the wind to pick up enough speed or water to pour down hard enough or lightening to strike or a few too many hikers to jump up and down on the overlook to break free and find its way down to the valley below.

Tisen and Twiggy were unimpressed by the scene.  They were busy searching through the leaves for interesting new scents.  Did they find evidence of a bear?  Perhaps just a deer.  Whatever smells they found, they buried their noses in them and wagged their tails feverishly.

Thankfully, Pat had them back on leashes and was able to keep them from running off on down the valley tracking whatever scent they’d picked up.  To be honest, Twiggy probably knew exactly what scent she’d found–she’s a true hunter.  Tisen was more likely to just be imitating Twiggy, going through the motions, trusting that Twiggy had found something really good.

We stood gazing at the fallen rocks with trees growing out of them and tried to guess how long those rocks have been lying there.  I have no idea how to guess how old the trees decorating them are–they could be 20 years or 100 years old.  The rock no longer looks like a disaster scene but rather like it’s settled into the earth it met with some time ago.  The sharp edges have softened and fissures have opened in the rock, allowing for more trees to grow.

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I like this metaphor.  A big crash that seems like total destruction creates a place for new life to flourish. Lichens cover the rocks.  Leaves decompose on and around the stone, creating rich new soil.  The rock collects and redirects water into the fissures, watering the seeds the have fallen in the cracks.  Life reclaims the fallen and uses them anew.