We find ways to find ourselves.
For me, it often happens when I go for a walk. In this case, though, I was not prepared for the lesson ahead.
On the beautiful July 3rd morning of 2016, Jonathan and I headed out on the Stagman Ridge Trail, in the Mount Adams Wilderness in Washington. Our plan: trek eight miles to Looking Glass Lake.
The ranger told us there might be still be wildflowers blooming in the meadows along the way, though by that mid-summer day, they may already have passed.
We climbed steadily—for about a quarter mile—and then we heard the first birds: the chittering of a baby golden-crowned kinglet, and the crisp buzzy notes of a hermit warbler, a new bird for us both, so we spent thirty minutes watching him flit, land, flit through the firs.
When we finally got headed up the mountain again, each step led not only to a multitude of butterflies and flashy hummingbirds, but also to wildflowers—red columbine, black-spotted orange Columbia lily, white fluffy Cascade Mariposa lily—and with each new sighting, I stopped to swing up one of the two cameras I was carrying—one with a telephoto lens for the birds, one with a macro to wide-angle lens for flowers and scenery.
Rufous Hummingbird, female (finally sat still!)
Cascade Mariposa Lily (so fuzzy! Like cat's ears!)
(Not sure ID on this butterfly--I believe it is a species of checkerspot)
Without even thinking, I'd drop into a squat to get closer to the blooms and butterflies. Down, up, down, up. I did about 100 squats that day, mesmerized as each gain in altitude meant new species of flowers.
We never did make it to the lake.
But something happened to me that day. It didn't bother me (as it would have in the past) that we did not reach our intended goal.
As we headed down, my neuropathic feet burning, I celebrated every new blossom by pretending their bursts of color were fireworks (it was practically the 4th of July after all!). Spreading my hand from fist to wide open-fingered (and yes, saying POW! out loud each time--and hearing Jonathan laugh behind me), I let their loveliness distract and delight me.
Continuing our descent, I wished we had wildflower meadows and mountains like this where we lived. Luxuriating in the smell, the views, the abundance of tree and bird, of flower and insect, I was reminded of one of my favorite Peter Mayer song's, "Yukon Sally" from his1998 album Bountiful. (You can hear part of the song here, just scroll down to the Bountiful album.) The lyrics speak to my longing.
Yukon Sally lives on the mountain side Yukon Sally she likes to mountain climb She has a pack and an old canteen A hundred little things that she has seen And a hundred stories if you've got awhile Helicopter Joe lives down the road a ways Helicopter Joe flies passengers all day Up to the highest peak around Takes a photograph and takes them down So they can verify their lofty claims CHORUS: Joe calls Sally every now and then He says "Come on Sally, have a little sense That mountain climbing is a silly waste of time I've got a way you can skip all that Get you to the top in minutes flat" Sally just shakes her head and smiles wide And says "I think I'd rather climb" Joe sells rides to the hurried working class They want sights and they want to see them fast They say "this is nice and I hate to rush But we can catch a bite if we hurry up And maybe do the ocean after that" Sally dallies in the scent of evergreen Cools her feet in a chilly mountain stream Stays outside when the sky grows dark Walks in time to her beating heart And meditates a moment at the peak CHORUS She says "Joe, the climbing is half the joy You might reach the peak but that's not the point" Joe says "Sally, you're a mystery to me Yukon Sally lives on the mountain side