There are those moments in life when we find ourselves simply depleted. With diminished brainpower, devoid of energy, deficient in sleep and lacking inspiration, we feel spent, trampled and lifeless. In those moments I wish I could just step away, fence myself in and post one of those boundary signs: Protected wilderness area. Keep out. Stay back. Restoration in progress. Unfortunately for most of us, life refuses to stop, or even slow down, for those desperately depleted moments. So, we have to find a way, in the midst of the day-to-day, to breathe life back into the soul by creating our own personal restoration project.
This year has been a rough one for me. Don't get me wrong, nothing bad has happened, we are very fortunate and life is good. But I am tired. I have aches and pains and precious little energy (not that I am getting any less young...cough, cough). I have trouble keeping up with the daily grind and I often feel overwhelmed. I'm having trouble clearing space and setting boundaries for that little restoration area in my life and I desperately need it. So, looking forward to getting away from the house and back to nature, E. and I headed out for an overnight backpacking trip, seeking solace in the beautiful mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest in the Sierra and we were a little put off by the hustle-bustle energy of daily life creeping into our outdoor solitude. But once we got settled on the trail and into the rhythm of that movement, we felt refreshed, alive and so happy to be in the mountains!
Thankfully for this worn-out hiker, we reached the lake and dropped the packs after only two and a half miles. The day was perfectly beautiful with clear blue skies, a gentle breeze and the warmth of summer just touching fingertips with the crisp of autumn. It was surprisingly quiet around the lake for such a busy outdoor weekend and we were utterly grateful for the solitude. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the lake, taking photos, watching the sunlight and the water in delightful play. Looking out over Lower Lamarck Lake, watching the wind send rhythmic ripples across the water's surface, I experienced one small restorative moment. Breathe...
The daylight finally faded and one-by-one, as stars began to appear, I reflected on all the peaceful moments of the day, grateful for the opportunity to walk a little, sit a while, close my eyes and simply be.
We spent the moonlit hours scouting about, waiting for the milky Way to fully reveal itself. The crescent moon hovered above the ridge line, its light so bright it lit up the entire lakeside. It was quite amazing and I experienced one of those moments, illuminated in the darkness. Breathe...
After a much needed and very good night's sleep, I awoke in the morning magic of alpenglow. There is nothing like watching those granite peaks glow in that golden light. Oh, how I enjoyed that alpine coffee hour! Though worn down and out of shape, I was still looking forward to a good hike. We set out, hoping to summit a small peak that appeared to be easily within reach. Hiking along, I tried to be mindful and appreciative of all those little moments I was experiencing and I felt myself making some pretty good headway with my restoration project.
Hot coffee on a cool morning, watching the alpenglow fade. Sitting quietly, soaking my feet in the crystal clear water of an alpine lake. Glacial waters falling over granite slabs, refreshing and reviving my senses. Breathe...
Coming across the last fading wildflowers of the summer season. Catching a glimpse of a family of deer retreating across an alpine meadow. Discovering the first of autumn's golden aspen leaves. Breathe...
As I walked, I was quietly contemplating my depleted state and the fact that my mountaineering days have been dwindling the past few years. I miss that place in life, that place of strength and balance. However, our adventures this past year have allowed me to slow down, relax, enjoy it all at a different pace, from a new point of view. I was making peace with where I am at in life and feeling hopeful that if I dedicate some effort I can restore that strength and balance. Then we reached the base of the slope leading up to that "little" summit and my hopes were dashed in a flash.
The goal seemed easy enough. At 12, 691 feet, Mt. George Davis really is a small summit, as far as any seasoned mountaineer is concerned. A short hike from Lower Lamarck Lake, a class 2 route with just enough easy class 3 scrambling to make it fun. Sure, I'm out of shape, completely off-balance, haven't climbed much this year...but I can do it, I've done it so many times before, it can't be that hard...right? As soon as I began the slog up that slope, my mind started ranting negative thoughts, my ears started ringing, heart thumping forcefully in my chest...Shhhh! Quiet! Restoration in progress! My restorative mindset shifted to enduring the slog and I couldn't help but compare it to life. Loose rocks resting on a sandy slope, no solid footing. Step one foot forward, slide three feet back bringing the whole slope with you. Finally, finally, you reach the saddle, a place to rest. Pausing to catch your breath and calm your heart you look up to find the slog continues up yet another slope to the summit. Tired, frustrated, defeated. Restoration project thwarted.
I have been there many times before. At that point I have two choices, stop or keep going. Continue on and I know I will eventually find myself some solid footing. Lately, I have been stopping. This time, I kept going. Climbing those boulders wasn't easy, my strength spent, but at least I was making progress and moving closer to my goal. This is usually the point where I am able to regain my composure. My perspective changes as I look back to see how far I have come while looking forward to see the goal well within my grasp. In this particular moment, on this particular slope, I thought of my dad. Years ago, he gave me a beautiful handmade frame with a photo of myself climbing one of my first snow slopes with ice-axe in hand. He wrote to me: Mountains are beautiful and exist for a purpose. One purpose is to climb them; to expand our horizon, to test our strength, to check our resolve and to challenge our fears. Life is much the same way and we can learn a lot about life from the mountains. Climb on, Becca! You have what it takes to go high! I took those words to heart and slowly my smile returned as slowly I climbed on.
I finally reached the summit. It took a minute to let go of the slog, but when I did it was exhilarating! For a few moments, standing on that little peak in a sea of granite giants
, my spirit was revived, my energy rejuvenated and my confidence restored.
Yes, you can learn a lot about life from the mountains. You learn what you're made of, that's for sure! Like my dad said, you learn to stretch your limits, test your strength, broaden your horizon. But I have also learned to stop and sit, listen to the gentle lapping of water, smell the refreshing scent of pine trees, feel the crisp mountain air, see the moon illuminate the beauty of the night.
Clear your space and set your boundaries. Walk a little, sit a while, restore your soul :)
Labels: Hiking, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Sierra Nevada, Summer