Thursday, March 10, 2016

It Was There the Whole Time

Catharsis n. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially 
through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.

I caught the hiking bug right around Christmastime. Every chance I got, I filled the Camelbak, grabbed my earbuds and sunglasses, and headed for the nearest mountain. I've found such peace along the rocky, spiny, dusty, sunny trails of the valley--basking in spring temperatures and solitude. My mind has been mired with heavy thoughts so often these past few weeks, and time alone to think and sweat out solutions has been a treasured and necessary escape.

Camelback. Wind Caves. Lost Dutchman. I've done these in the past, but one hike I had never done was up A mountain at ASU. I can't believe I neglected this gem all these years. I fell in love with this hike--steep and difficult, but short and with incredible 360-degree views of the entire valley.
I decided I would hike A mountain every day for a week. Just because it was there. And just because I could. And one day, I hiked it twice. Just because.

As I was exiting the parking garage to begin my fifth ascent of the week, I realized I had never seen the "A" on the mountain. Hmmm. It must be on the other side of the mountain from the trail, I thought. I made it my goal to find the A that day.

Trails spider all over the mountain, and this time I took a different route to the top, passing cross-training athletes, moms with kids, a police officer, and a cell tower repairman hauling a small but heavy replacement part. My mind constantly raced from one worry to the next. Did I say the right thing? When will that get checked off my to-do list? Do I have time to stop at Safeway on the way home? Will I ever find an answer to this question? Nothing new there. Same worries, different day.

Swirling, turning, twisting. My mind was in knots (as was my stomach), but the closer I got to the top of the final staircase, the knots began to release their grip and my mind started to clear. Something about sitting on a mountain has always brought me peace, something in my blood longs for the peace of the mountains. I lingered at the top a few minutes longer that day, reluctant to return to the turmoil I knew would greet me at the bottom.

Life always pulls me back down, and I descended. As I turned a corner, I glimpsed something on the ground through the brush and the dust. Something gold. Something made of concrete. Something 60 feet tall. A rattlesnake would have surprised me less.
Almost ten times I had climbed this same mountain, passed this same spot, and I hadn't seen it. It was the A. Less than 20 feet from the trail. Less than 20 feet from me. Looking down on me from its secure spot on the mountain face.
I felt so foolish. How had I missed it? I gawked stupidly at it for too long. Hikers tried not to stare as I stood there, phone in hand, snapping awkward pictures of a not-particularly-picturesque swath of desert that meant nothing to them. But in that moment, it meant the world to me.

The real lesson hit me. All my worry and stress and everything . . . maybe the answers weren't that hard to find. Maybe the answers weren't that far out of my reach. Maybe the answers had been there all the time, but I had been too burdened by worry to allow my heart and mind to see. Maybe I had been pushing so hard and working so hard that I was blind to the obvious.

To see what had been right in front of me all along.

I left pounds of worry on A mountain that day. And I haven't been back since. For some reason, the inexplicable urge to conquer mountains is temporarily satiated.

But I know the mountain will be there next time I need it. And next time, I will know where to look for the A.

1 comment:

  1. Just out of reach…except not really.Doesn't that seem the definition of parenting. I like this comparison!