Dead Things Revisited: Beauty in the Breakdown
I remain enamored with Hauntingly Beautiful Dead Things. Here on our first few hikes of the season and perhaps the first real hikes we’ve done in several years my eye is caught by some of the beautiful burnt trees and fallen cacti of Arizona.
Lovely flowering bushes of springtime purples and yellows wrap themselves around bark blackened by bolts of errant summer lightning. Nestled in the hardened trunk of an old cactus are newly born birds waiting in their nests for momma or poppa to return. Another cactus fallen long ago to the hard desert earth now teems with ants and bees. From another dead cactus emerges a large lizard nearly a foot long… the biggest I’ve seen so far in the wild in Arizona.
Live Things Revisited: Muscle Memory, Endorphins
It’s been several years since we’ve hiked to any significant degree. There was my bicycle crash years ago that set in motion constant pinched nerves throughout my upper back that I still deal with. There was the plantar fasciitis I acquired when training for a backpacking trip that would never happen for me. That condition took at least two years to resolve, not counting the inability to walk barefooted for many years after that, but I did eventually get to do this amazing trip that required far less foot power: 3 Days, 2 Natl Parks, 1 Bum Foot: Miracles and Inspiration .
For a long while there, though, I connected the dots from one injury or pain to the next, never seeming to complete the big picture, to see whether I‘d ever be able to do what I used to take for granted. With the help of some chiropractic care, physical therapy and personal perseverance, I’ve improved a lot from where I’ve been—enough to now give hiking with trekking poles a try again. We’ve been on our fourth hike of the past week and a half, averaging one every two or three days, resting and stretching on our off days, and I have to say I’ve been surprised to find I’m doing well… better than expected… well enough that we stayed up late the other night in excited conversation, talking about the prospects and possibilities of training again for a multi-day backpacking trek, much like we did in Yosemite almost ten years ago. It feels good to consider we might be able to get back in that groove.
Today, after returning from a hike and feeling pretty darn good, we realized our muscle memory is returning too. What’s also returning are the endorphins… nearly forgot about those little buggers. Long after we were back at the house today, we were teeming with positive energy, feeling bubbly, feeling high, feeling full of the sense that this is where we want and need to be. We’ve also had this sense of finding our center again. We may not know when we’ve lost center, but we certainly know when we’ve got it back. This is what’s been missing from our lives far longer than it should. This is our church. This is our connection to all that we hold most important. When we don’t stay connected here, we become less than what we can be, what we want to be, what we were designed to be.
Among the concerns these days of COVID-19, of international viral infections and their impact on human mortality and the human spirit, it’s important to stay connected to our center and to our deepest truths… that even when distanced from one another, we have the opportunity to become and remain highly connected at all times to our inner selves, to the inner truth that connects us all very directly to this rare, mysterious, bountiful planet that we know so much about and yet still know so little about. Hieroglyphics we recently spotted on the trail reminded me of our connection to our ancestors, to humans who were very connected to the earth, who respected it and relied on it for their very existence. It’s a message worth reflecting upon. How far have we fallen off the path from what seemed to our ancestors quite obvious?
How much have we lost the ability to slow down and appreciate the little things in life?
My husband and I know that we are blessed to have access to some local hiking options here in Arizona that allow us to disappear on a trail and not run into another human for quite a while. But even when we weren’t making use of these trails, we’ve always been in the habit of at least sitting outside in the yard most mornings with our coffee and just taking in some quite stillness at the start of our day. Most anyone can do at least this. This is where we get the chance to connect, to center, to set the tone for the rest of the day.
I hope that at this time of a national “time-out” that people will tap into the realization of what basic truths and simple pleasures they may have been missing and that they incorporate those activities [back] into their lives. I hope this time of global infection brings us all closer to ourselves, to our deepest truths, to our deepest connections and ultimately to each other. I hope this brutal reminder of the sanctity of death and life remains with us long after COVID-19 is gone.
Stay connected, but be smart and safe doing it, folks. Social distancing is critically important right now. Only visit trails where access is allowed and maintain your distance when you do so. Wear a mask at least in the areas where there is a chance you may have to pass someone closely on the trail. Plenty of folks out there not wearing masks, mostly people under age 50, especially those who are running or biking (it does seem hard to breath through our homemade versions of masks when breathing heavily from aerobic exercise, so I do understand, but don’t condone it), so take necessary precautions when others don’t. The life you save may be your own or someone you know and even love.
Safe and happy trails,
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