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Summers seemed endless when I was a girl. Endless days of swimming in the sea, building wet sloppy sand dams against the incoming tide with my brother and cousins, laying my wool covered body - yes swim suits were knitted by my mother - down in a warm tide pool behind the dam waiting for the incoming tide to send its waves over the dam and eventually destroy it, sending us running to dryer beach ground. The days were marked by the tide, when was high tide, when low tide? When to swim, when to dig for critters, fill up the bucket, find the warm rivulets of water circulating between my toes as my soft feet were massaged by the ribs of sand created by the strong pull of the outgoing tide.
Sensation, sensation, light, so much light from long days as we lived at the 52nd parallel. My body filled up with salty smells, soft warm sand, was scraped by barnacles on tide posts, by exhilarating wave rides dumping me on the shell clad beach. My muscles grew strong climbing up the dunes to get to the beach from our camp, my limbs grew longer as we rolled our bodies over and over down the steep dunes again and again. Those were summers of goodness, of space, of discovery. I learned more about life in those three weeks of summer - for that’s all it was, I found out later, three weeks - than in ten months of sitting in school benches. In these endless summers I learned about the essences of life and formed some rules for living.
I’m setting out for my summer nomadic life. The rhythm of the season is calling me away from my home base, and the trek is to the North, first to the 65th parallel, where the light will be endless with only 3 1/2 hours of semi darkness in a day, then to the 52nd parallel for the summer solstice. I will discover new wonders of nature in a geyser filled volcanic landscape. I will move across the dutch waters for days on end, using my muscles to row from place to place. I will walk and hike in the deep German forests uphill and downhill, laughing with siblings as in my youth. I will rest in the warm company of friends and family to let my guard down and let myself be held. Planes, airports, trains, hotel rooms and boat huts will be my temporary homes. I will meet people and I will have to let them go again.
I will gather images and knowledge not to be found in my back yard. I will learn more about living and myself. I will come back to this continent and hike the wilderness, day in day out, in the simplicity of a sunrise - sunset rhythm, drinking in what nature offers, as I did as a little girl. I hope to touch that feeling of unencumbered endlessness that fuels hope, inspiration and new beginnings.
Lower Rogue trail.
Very tired at the end of another 13 mile day of hiking, I ask myself WHY? Why do I haul, sweat, balance, lift, climb, descend on the trails in these mountains, along this river? The views are spectacular, the river is a constant reminder of the flow of things, ongoing, never ending, moving toward a point in the distance. As I hike, I too move toward a point in the distance.
I move because I can. I move with more grace as the days pass by, my gait steadier, my swing loser. I move with joy in the green coolness of the morning, with confidence in the middle of the day as I traverse a narrow slanted slate hillside, I move with gratefulness as the last mile leads me to a spot for a night of rest. I move, and as I move all day, day in day out, my flexibility increases. In my home, comfort is my nemesis, the sly devil that takes away the life in my limbs. I have succumbed to it, made my pact with it. A walk along the river for four days makes me think and reconsider. I walk to keep confidence in a body that can move, a body living what it’s destined to do.
WHY do I walk? I see the sights when I walk. I wear no glasses, just a hat. Green, green in all its shades, with browns and splotches of color from the masses of wild flowers, but predominantly green is the color of this hike. The fresh green of the new oak leaves, the spry green of the dancing grasses, the dark green of the evergreens in the shadows of the canyon. There is no old green, faded green. Green is the rest for my eyes, away from backlit two dimensional screens. Green lights up in the sun, sparkles against a waterfall. Green is the healer for my eyes. After a few days, I don’t need glasses to read the print on the map. I know it won’t last, but I know that I can turn the clock back on my aging eyes by giving them a vacation in nature. And the views you ask? Big views of the canyon, early morning rising over the water, sun catching the top of the trees, the water dark, cold, flowing, ever flowing, night and day. The small views of delicate ferns, black ferns, Woodwardia fern, a blade of rattlesnake grass, a clump of leaves from last season lost in the branches hanging over the river, high water marks of what went before. I walk to see the world I’m a part of in space and time
WHY do I walk? It’s a new season. A season that gives me confidence that there will be another year, a future. A river that tells its story of torrents of rain, snow, water forces surging and depositing snapped off branches, a 50 foot bare tree trunk balancing on top of a rock 20 feet above the water. What sounds ricocheted through this canyon as the water stormed through? The river so calm now, flowing full, but contained on a sunny early morning in May. I walk to witness, to be part of this nature, to know there will be another season. I walk to make this moment in time my world.
WHY do I walk? The newness is the old, a repeat, of season after season, of my soul spiraling, soaring like the eagle on the air currents high above the water, waiting, looking for another lucky moment, a fish for survival. For four days I get to just be, waiting for a fast running creek to get my water, for a good log to enjoy my meal, a spot of grass to sleep the satisfying sleep of physical effort in a world so much bigger than me, bigger than my small life at home. I walk to know my place in the order of things.
For more visuals of the trail, click on slideshow on this website page