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“The impulse to create begins – often terribly and fearfully – in a tunnel of silence," Adrienne Rich, Arts of the Possible.
Day 8 -13 in the Southern part of the Northern Cascades, WA
A zero day in a town has broken the coveted inner silence of the first week of the hike. I can taste the end of hiking. This is what I will be going back to, comfort, a roof over my head.
Re-entry to the trail a day later, puts me back into the “tunnel of silence” as Adrienne Rich calls it, the spaciousness of open sky and endless tree cover, towering Mt Adams in my periphery for days. I bathe at Lava springs, icy cold water gushing out of a porous wall. The water is like the earth’s blood, pure. It feeds all its organs and limbs splayed out to support my steps, to give me vision, to allow spirit to come to me.
Company on the trail cuts down on the inner silence. Company shares the temporary misery of bug bites. This hike is becoming a journey of balance between work and play, activity and being.
The afternoons are a pause in the practice of becoming. Doing nothing is hard, even when there is nothing to do. I sit in the meadow, and let the view penetrate me, the sound of birds wash my ears, the smell of wild flowers lift my palate. The subalpine fir branches are dancing up and down in the wind. It takes awhile before I notice the upright cones at the tops, reaching.
During an early morning swim at Sheep lake I watch the mosquitos dance on the water like ice skaters, twirling around each other until they “cluster” as if holding hands raised up to the sky.
Nature’s abundance lets me walk through meadow after meadow covered with sweet smelling purple lupine, where bees live their short intoxicated lives, drinking the nectar for a world that wants to diversify, and propagate endlessly. Bistort, the white candle-like flower among the lupine, offers its tender soft blossoms like young women’s skin, fuzzy stamen reaching out for the ignorant fertilizing insect.
I enter the Goat Rocks wilderness, with its high passes and rocky crags. It is the starkness of the barren, rocky trail that gives me the feeling of entering the unknown - a going home to places long past. My soul must be living above tree line, where things are stark, clear, endless. Crossing the glacier, walking the knife edge ridge for two miles is an experience of focus and elevation. The winds pull on my body, expose a need to hold on, have everything tied down on the pack. There is no room for losing balance. This is what mountain climbers must feel holding on to the last pieces of earth, high up. If you let go, you fall to your death- an instant entry into the other realm. The images light up my brain. I was there, I was in the open realm and looked down, way down.
The return to slopes with glacier melt washing down the gravel and rocks is a return to reality of being earth bound, feet on the ground, a return to walking, thinking, setting up camp and spending one more night under the trees and the stars. The moon, full, when I started the journey, is a sliver in the sky as I wake to the last day of the tunnel of natural silence.