How do you know that this is the experience that you need? Because it’s the one you’re having right now.
I’m not sure where I came across that gem, but it’s something I need to keep in mind.
I was so excited Tuesday night, I could barely sleep.
I went to bed early, even tried to go to sleep early, and still couldn’t sleep. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve.
I set the alarm for oh-five-hundred. I packed toilet paper, a couple of snacks, toilet paper, water, toilet paper, a first aid kit, and toilet paper. I made sure I had comfortable shoes and good socks. I was ready to rock and roll.
I lovingly placed my phone and my camera batteries in their respective chargers. The next morning, I limited my coffee intake (and, yet still managed to squeeze a bit in), stumbled around, gathered my supplies and toilet paper, and prided myself on remembering my phone and camera in its fancy-schmancy Crown Royal bag that is being used as a camera bag.
It seemed like it took 9 years to get there, but really, it was only a 45 minute drive to the hiking trail. It’s in DeSoto National Forest, and it was definitely worth the ride.
We stood around a little bit while he tried to get his GPS working. (My dad can’t seem to master e-mail, but he’s a fool for GPS gadgets.) He couldn’t figure it out so off we went without it. Every couple of hundred feet or so, he’d say, “Boy, I wish I knew how far we’d gone.”
It was a gorgeous day, threatening showers in the later after noon, but early and cool. I, with my backpack of water and toilet paper, felt all hikerly as we took in flowers and insects and shifted our eyes as we were reminded by a big billboard that there may be venomous snakes in the area.
Just a little bit in, I was stopped by the perfect picture. There was a pond, completely covered in lily pads, most of which were in full bloom. Between branches and the angling sunlight, it was absolutely stunning. Bees were pollinating, the breeze was blowing, and the flowers were just there in their simple beauty.
I howled for my dad to stop; I dug in my bag, amidst the toilet paper, to retrieve my lovingly packed camera in all of its Crown Royal glory. I hit the button to turn it on, already aimed for the perfect shot when I realized I had forgotten to put the fully charged batteries in the camera.
Disappointed, I shoved it back into the bag and stood there for a moment, trying to memorize the scene, and for a long moment, I wish I could paint. I’ve wanted this before, but right then, I wanted it more than anything in the world.
We kept walking over bridges, up and down between inclines and declines. We saw flowers, bright berries too red for June, and turquoise beetles. We talked about snakes, about how a section of swamp reminded me of our woods after Hurricane Elena when everything fell over and was so accessible for a shy kid who liked to hide in the bushy tops of the fallen trees.
Sometimes we didn’t talk about anything at all. We just listened to the breeze through the woods and the birds which had far more important things to talk about than we did.
And we walked. And we walked. And we walked.
With a six minute break between the two legs of the hike, I made it a total of 2 hours actual hiking time. Well, an hour and 58 and a half minutes, since I managed to cut off a minute and a half on the return trip. I had grand visions of an all day hike, of hitting the lake area and having a picnic, of going farther than I actually did, but I had no idea what I was up for in terms of actual exertion.
Five months ago, give or take, I would not have been able to even do an hour. Even 30 minutes, most likely. Part of it is fitness, but part of it is health problems that seem to have “magically” fallen away without my noticing it in the past few months.
And it struck me as I was trying to balance myself and my backpack over a rather narrow bridge, that this is the life that I want to live. And for two hours on Wednesday, I was living it. The life I wanted was accessible to me.
And I can’t describe the feeling of peace that came along with that. It was perfect that my father and I, who are so diametrically opposed on so many things, did not have a single argument during the hike. It was perfect that the trail basically began and ended with the pond sporting a full array of blooming lotus.
It was perfect.
And I, still struggling a bit with the strange limbo of my life, had a bit of perspective granted to me that I would have otherwise missed.
Two days later, and my calves are still a bit sore, but we’re planning on going back next Wednesday.
I hope I can sleep.