Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grief, Wilson Mountain, and Ro, Peanut, & Jason

Look at the dark ridge, the very highest point. That was my destination today, >7000 feet
About 25% of the way up the steep trail

About half way up the trail

About two miles from the summit
Above the planes, and helicopters, and eagles

If you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point.
~Antonio Porchia

Since 1973, I've been awed by the soldier-like pines on Wilson's summit in Sedona. They have stood there for many, many years, proud, dignified, mysterious. From thousands and thousands of feet down, they appear like tiny fuzzy stick people.

Few have made the trek up the steepest, tallest, most majestic mountain to meet the pine soldiers. Since 1973, I've wondered if I ever would, if I ever could.

Today I did.

I stood at Midgley Bridge in awe - and also in some concern - as I stared up the vast expanse at the base of the colossal mountain. I could not discern a trail from the ground despite my willful concentration.

So I stood there deciding if I would do it, uncertain of the ascension, my ability, and my endurance. Thus, if I was to continue, I had to trust both the unknown and my self.

Then, I had a thought: This is like grief.

It's enormous. Overwhelming. Frightening. Untraveled. Uncertain. Tenuous. I wasn't sure how- or if- I could do it. I didn't know where I would go, where it would take me, what I would encounter. Was I strong enough for it? I had so much self-doubt. "How am I going to get all the way up there?" ran through all four corners of my mind. Repeatedly.

Nevertheless, I took the first step into trust.

I trusted through the treacherous rocks, and the steep climbs, and the never-ending hairpin turns back and forth, north to west, to south to east. I trusted through erroneous detours off my right path, and the back pain, and I trusted through aching feet and burning sun and dry lips. I trusted through many moments of doubt; moments when I wanted to turn around and return to the trailhead- when I wanted to give up the trek. But I endured.

I was surprised how I was able to persevere when I focused on each individual moment- as I put one foot in front of the other- taking it one small step at a time...

I started the day before 9am and hiked more than 15 miles up to the summit and back down until 4pm, stopping only several brief times for water and peanut butter. The ascent was to more than 7000 feet, with anorexic oxygen and unfamiliar plants, closer to the clouds and blue sky. Where the grasses were greener and the smells sweeter and the birds sang louder as the world disappeared into the red dirt below me. The soldier pine trees, much larger than they appear from the ground, stood tall in their majestic places on the ridge. A few had collapsed from lightening strikes, gutted by the sky's fire, and others remained unscathed having survived the storms. A red-tailed hawk soared hundreds of feet below, and I realized that the view from above changed my perspective about my former world.

Skinned knees, blistered heels, and sunburned skin. Well worth the journey. What a gift.

*I did this hike for Jason and for Peanut and for Ro as I hold their parents in my heart*


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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