I cleared my own calendar on Wednesday.
Things at home, and at work, had been demanding so much space, so much energy, that I could feel myself spinning out of control. I needed grounding and stability, and a break from it all. I needed to get out of signal, out of touch, and find myself a good pace among trees and rocks and flowers.
I needed the mountain. She was calling to me.
Mount Hood stands prominent in my life as a person who lives in Portland, Oregon. The distant stratovolcano is a sense of place and vulnerability to me, where at any moment, she could blow her top, but at the same time, beckons me with every glance I take towards her, to come and be among her crags and rocks and trails and paths. I love it up there, on her various outcroppings and vista points. I love the smell, the sound, the feel of the ground beneath my feet on her slopes.
The hike was exactly what I needed to find my footing. Decisions about my current situation, my future steps, and how I feel about the direction of my life, were made. The shape of my heart, who occupies it, the level of energy I devote to them, and to myself, were all brought into balance for a while. I shed some tears as my mind relaxed and my body was in motion, and it felt like a much-needed release.
I have some major changes to make in my life, especially with regards to how I earn my living, and how I interact with those around me, and I need to be brave enough to believe in myself. It’s the same bravery I engage every time I tackle a trail up there, with loose stone and steep cliffs, and opportunities to become injured or killed at every juncture. If I can tackle these trails with confidence and agility, surely I can face down the challenges in my life ahead of me that require the same skills.
Sterling is a lovely young man. At twenty-four, he has more peace and calm about his character and demeanor than I’ve ever met. Tall, self-assured, confident, insightful, he and I spent the day together today, traveling a little out into the wilderness to the east of town, attempting to find splashes of sunshine on what was just becoming another very rainy day.
Once we got to Hood River, Oregon, and east of the Cascades, the rain abated, for a while, and gave us a taste of some summer sun that we’d both been seeking.
”Have you been to Timberline?” I asked him.
”I have not,” he replied, much to my surprise.
We headed south, along Highway 35, up and out of the Columbia River Gorge, and made our way along the eastern side of Mount Hood. The rain remained at bay.
I watched him as he took in the wilderness around us. He was taking in all of the trees, the variety of vegetation that grows on the eastern side of the mountains, the way the mist was forming on the tops of the trees, sending plumes of moisture up into already-saturated clouds. He was quietly noting the majesty of the forests, and realizing that he needed to come out here more often, to be among the giant firs and moss-laden pines. His eyes grew bigger with every swoop and turn of the winding road.
The rain returned as we spun around the south side of the mountain, and turned back west. Just after entering Government Camp, Oregon, I took a right, and up to Timberline Lodge, an iconic mountain ski resort and hotel that he simply needed to see. As we climbed up in elevation, the driving rain gave way to driving snow. The Jeep performed beautifully.
Once in the lodge, we wandered around, and I watched as he took in the structure, the history, of the building and the place. He truly seemed fascinated by it all.
Being a tour-guide of a sort for him today was really a sweet change from my usual grind. Normally, I’d be on my third day of the workweek. This week, though, I’ve taken some much-needed time off. I don’t return until next Saturday, giving me another shortened workweek next week, as well.
Today needed Mountain Time. I am so thankful this all started with the gentle nature and calm disposition of Sterling. I cannot wait for more time with him, to calm and focus, to breathe and smile.
I took a hike on Wednesday.
I took the day, unscripted by any other demands on my calendar, and simply drove to where the rain stopped. Just beyond the Cascades, out the Gorge, and on the northern shore, I found a trail that needed hiking.
I’d been there before, years ago, and in a whole other mindset and body, with my husband, and have been needing to go back, to go further with the hike, to see what there was to see.
I also needed to clear my head. A lingering feeling of doubt and cloudiness has been circling around in me for months now. One of my relationships has changed, and I needed to put it to rest in my heart, and mind, in order to make space for a new relationship that has, like the tiniest little wildflowers on that windswept hillside in spring, started to bloom. The hike, and the repetitive motion, was a meditation on changes, on letting go, on accepting the new, and on re-evaluating how I love, and who gets a piece of my heart. I let go, emotionally, a few times, and danced in the wind with the ravens that swooped and dove overhead in the cliffside updrafts.
Dad has a big heart. Dad has a multi-faceted big heart, capable of many things, including loving and caring, but also being brave, knowing when to let go, and when to remain still and quiet as the world, and the people in it, swirl around and flow like the river itself.
I also need to remember to do this more often. I need to separate myself from the digital world, from the built world, and get out there. It does my body, and mind, and spirit, so much good. So, so much.