Basic Days

Some days are like this: Simon and I pretending to be mountain goats high in the alpine (thanks to Nicky for the photo) and other days are like today: basic, quiet, catching up on domestic chores.

And while I live for days like yesterday, I need and love days like this too. Rest days. Days that sort of support my more adventurous ones. After all, we need clean underwear, right?

Sometimes, these quiet days inspire introspection and then I’m inspired to write down my thoughts. Other days (today) my brain turns to mush and it’s all I can do to remember where I put my car keys. Example: I am about to walk the dogs and have to go back upstairs three times: forgot wallet; forgot bear spray; forgot keys. Yup – brain mush.

And I suppose there are times when I need my brain to shut down. Everything needs a rest.

Tomorrow: hiking. Saturday: hiking. And then – The Skyline Trail. That’s the big one. I’ve been anticipating it for a year. I know it won’t disappoint me.

While I’ve been dragging my sorry butt all day, Simon has been weed whacking the property below our main garden – the area that gets most of the sun. I walked down there a few minutes ago. What I noticed – and what Simon showed me – a huge sunny area; a dilapidated greenhouse that he’s going to pull down, an odd sort of shed by the creek, and lots of fruit trees (apples, plums, cherries). We’re going to terrace the garden down the slope (strawberries) and then incorporate the lower area. I have all sorts of plans. I like the lower section: hot, sunny, warm and protected. That’s the place for sun-loving crops while the upper area will yield lots of leafy crops.

It’s a good start for our first year. More than good – a great start.

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Mount Brennan (Total Eclipse of the Heart)

Corny reference (eclipse) but very apt. Let me explain: Mount Brennan is one of the most beautiful and spectacular alpine hikes in the Kootenays – and we did it on a day of a mystical, magical solar eclipse – and we were in a state of bliss all day (except for that awful bit of rock scrambling – but hey!). So – yes – it was, as the song says, an eclipse of the heart.

I hiked with my two favourite people – we were in love and blisssed out with the mountain all day. I could go on and on about the day – all 10 hours – and after 10 hours of hiking and gaining massive elevation (and getting lost and off-trail) and scrambling and everything, I still rate it as one of the best days ever!

It doesn’t get any better – sharing a day like this with the two people in the world who get “it” and who get me.

I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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It’s been an ordinary day – a day of a lot of resting and doing little things – chores, if you will. I also wrote the trip report from yesterday.

Writing that report and merely reflecting on the day, caused a few thoughts to erupt. That and Ross Bates’ posting for a KMC hike where he stressed that participants must be comfortable with boulder fields. Of course that post was not aimed at me per se – but my reaction yesterday certainly made him explicit about what the hike involved.

And so I felt immediately inadequate as a hiker. I was one of those wimps – one of those wussy people who couldn’t keep up and couldn’t do simple things that everyone else does – like hop across boulders.

Even as I thought that, I knew that this sort of negative talk was self-defeating and just plain silly. I know why I don’t like boulders. I have a poor sense of balance. I always did. Even as a child, I was the one who fell off the balance beam even just standing on it. It’s a physical limitation and I know it – so I take it into account.

At any rate, I prefer hiking on trails. I’ve done my share of off-trail and if it’s not bushwhacking through head-high slash (and I’ve done enough of that this year) I’m fine with it. Hell, I’ve even been okay with the ugly stuff. I’m pretty good with heights. So – I’m not good with boulders although, dammit, I’m better than I was.

Enough said about boulders.

Sometimes (often?) we dwell far too long on our inadequacies rather than spending time celebrating the areas where we shine.

Here’s what I know: I shine at life and love and bliss. I shine at doing my best, knowing who I am and trying, every day, to be a better version of me. And that’s what I choose to celebrate.

I’ve experienced two hikes where I did not find my bliss. And that’s okay. I’m still happy about doing them. But as much as possible, when I go  into the mountains, I will endeavour to take a journey filled with bliss. That happens when I am with Simon, with Nicky or alone. Simon and Nicky “get me” and experience the mountains in the way that I do – with a kind of reverence, awe and wonder. We are happy to stop and stare and drink it in. It’s not a race. Others may say it’s not a race – these two beautiful people practice it.

And so I am feeling quiet and grateful today – grateful for the garden where vegetables are lush, growing and yielding a bounty. I am grateful for a delightful walk with the dogs, grateful for the beautiful adventures yet to come – Brennan tomorrow, Kokanee Glacier on Saturday, Skyline next week – and the adventure of simply playing a silly game of Scrabble with my husband. I am grateful for friends like Peter and P’nina who were so much fun the other night. Grateful for people like Chris who don’t judge and know how to make anything fun. I am grateful for a quiet home and a soft space where I can simply be.

It is all unfolding as it should. I fully trust that.

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Lightning Strike and Monk Peak

Here’s the thing about the Law of Attraction: it doesn’t understand the word “no.” So – no matter how much I think “Please – no boulder fields,” all the Law hears is “boulder fields.” Today it delivered more than I could ever have hoped for. Not in my wildest dreams (nightmares?) could I have envisioned so many gigantic boulders.

It all seemed simple enough: hike to the top of Ripple Ridge and end up at Lightning Strike. Done! Lovely hike! (although Peter is just a bit fast – have to grab the photos on the fly!).

Then descend the other side. What? – but that’s a cliff, right? Well, not quite – just a steep descent. Okay. One person said, “Nope – I’ll just wait for you all to come back.”

Wise woman.

We headed down, down, down – no trail. And then, there we were at the base of Monk Peak. Up – no problem. I’d much rather do a steep up than a steep down. And then – OMG! What’s that? Is that boulders the size of mini-vans? Why yes! And for how long exactly do we go up these boulders? Why – all the way to the top, of course.

Peter pointed out that he’d said there was scrambling involved. Note to self – scrambling means boulder fields.

So, hyperventilating all the way (true!) I climbed up. Phil kindly tucked my poles into my backpack so I’d have my hands free. Oh yes – we all needed hands. And trust me, it was a very long way to the top.

Made it! Alive!

But there was a catch – we had to go back down to the saddle between Monk Peak and the other, smaller Monk Peak. Down a boulder field. Bless Chris – who stayed right close in front of the two slowest people (do I need to say that one of them was me?) and chattered away, distracted us, and helped us find the best route.

While half the group then did a quick run up and down the small Monk, we saner (more tired?) people chose to hang out in the saddle and eat our lunch.

After lunch we had the great pleasure of descending yet another boulder field to get back to the valley edge where we could go back to the top of Lightning Strike where Andrea, refreshed and happy, would be waiting for us. Yes, we went all the way up and down so that we could go back up again – such is the insanity of hikers.

Following Chris – my safest bet – didn’t work out quite as well as expected this time because he took a slightly off-course turning and we ended up in a much worse set of boulders than Peter and gang – a set that required me to do a jump I don’t want to talk about or remember. I take full responsiblity for the wrong turning – clearly I needed really, really awful boulders in my life.

And then, finally, the ascent back up to Lightning Strike! Steep? Yes! Piece of cake!

And so finally – back home, celebrating the fact that I am alive. Yay!

Also celebrating having had Peter and P’nina as guests last night – what fun that was! Awesome people and very silly drunken Scrabble. And thanks to my wonderful husband – who I love with all my heart – I didn’t have to make breakfast or do any cleaning or tidying.

I am spoiled.

And happy.

No mountain bliss today – not the bliss of beauty and wonder – just the joy of doing the darn thing and coming through it unscathed. That’s worth something too.

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Sometimes I am struck by the improbability of relationships – of two people sharing space together – sharing their entire lives.

You take two random people who meet and decide – “Yup – let’s go for it.” And, miraculously they adjust, shove aside a few quirks, overlook some weirdnesses and learn to love and accept what cannot be changed – and they blend their lives.

Truly miraculous is the fact that it works – quite often, actually.

Yesterday, I was listened to part of a CBC program exploring this entire idea of love and relationships. A 90-year-old man was talking about his marriage of 69 years. He and his wife must have been about 20 when they met, fell in love and got married. He spoke articulately and wisely about what it takes to love someone for all those decades – and to continue to love them even after they fell prey to Alzheimer’s.

For 19 years, he was her caregiver, never wavering and never doubting that this was what he would do. Even after she was hospitalized a year ago, he never wavered, visiting every day, talking to her, singing to her and telling her he loved her over and over – every day.

Two things he said struck me. One: loving someone is a decision we make. And once we make that decision, we make it last by committing to it – fully and wholeheartedly. “Til death do us part, if you will. I’m pretty sure he’s right in his assessment of love. I believe that everything we do in life is a decision, even those things that apparently, “just happen.” Somewhere, perhaps only on the edge of consciousness, we make a decision. I make a decision to be happy or to be sad. Oddly, most of us deny making a decision when our results are negative – we want to blame someone – we want to be a victim. But we make that decision.

I always have a choice. If I take the position that I am 100 percent accountable, then I can pull myself up when I need to. I don’t have to wait for someone else to save me.

But back to love: love is a decision. I believe that is true. And I also believe it’s true that the more I tell someone I love them, the more I love them. This was the 90-year-old man’s second point. “I love you.” It is an affirmation. “I love you” is a statement that embeds itself in my heart and when I say I love you – it becomes truer and truer.

Can you really say “I love you,” too often?

Perhaps that’s the secret to two people living together in harmony for years – for decades: make the decision to love, commit to loving and affirm it over and over and over again.

Yes, other things are important: Communication, respect, kindness, care, hugging – but deciding, committing and affirming – these are the framework – you build up from there.

I am sometimes struck by the improbability of Simon and I being together for the rest of our lives. I lived alone for so long. And now, here we are, sharing our lives – all the details of our lives. Amazing. Miraculous really. But it seems we did it right. We chose each other – chose to love each other and we affirm it – over and over again.

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Silvercup Ridge

There’s that lovely quote I enjoy so much in response to the question, “How’s your life?”

“It didn’t go as planned.”

So that’s kind of the short-hand description of hiking Silvercup Ridge – “It didn’t go as planned.”

But, as with life, when things go as they go, at the very least, you end up learning something. The first thing I learned (for the hundred thousandth time it seems) is that I need to listen to myself – trust my feelings and instincts. And then speak up. I knew there would be trouble with the two dogs. Neither is submissive like Abby. I knew I should have said something – but this is one of my faults and it has tripped me up over and over in my life. When I see enthusiasm and excitement in someone, I simply find it impossible to contradict or point out negatives. I want them to stay excited and happy. I think, “Maybe it will all work out.”

It didn’t. Shanara and Rori did not get along. And that made it hard. It seems to me so sad to have two dogs out in such a wild, open space – with so much room to run and no one to run into – just us. And, for the most part, they had to stay on leash. That seemed very sad. And because Rori didn’t want to be around me and Simon either, we couldn’t really hike together. I didn’t like the feeling of me and Simon over here and my BFF over there on her own.

At any rate – it also didn’t help that we started the hike from the lowest trailhead rather than Rue de Beau, which would have lofted us much higher. Nicky clearly had much better information than I did on the best trailhead. So that was a mistake. But then, mistakes piled up on top of each other. No one was at fault for those. We read the description of the trail (me – multiple times). But the trail was not even remotely obvious and while we hiked on a beautiful ridge with wonderful views, it turns out we should have been on the mining road almost the entire time in order to make it to the end of the ridge. That was not obvious.

And so we camped at a lake in a hollow and hiked on the next day, finally giving up and turning around after about 4 hours. We got back to camp, packed up and headed back down. Everyone was frustrated – me probably less so than Nicky and Simon.

There was no bliss in the alpine. That was one of the things that made my heart ache. The alpine is my home place and my healing place. Instead, it was a place, this time, that I wanted to escape from as soon as possible. I sensed no joy from the people I care about.

I don’t know if I ever want to go back to Silvercup. Even taking Rue de Beau, I don’t want to hike on an old mining road for hours and hours – and you do have to do that. Simon read the trail description today for a very long time – and now that we’ve been there, we know that it’s a lot of road.

I learned that I need to set boundaries and honour them. Ha! Now that’s a new learning! (NOT!) If these alpine places are indeed my bliss, which they are, then I don’t want to compromise what puts me in that space. And that’s a hard thing for me. When I care about people, I want to make sure they’re happy. I was pretty sure that Nicky was working hard at making it work – working hard at being happy. But I think it was work for her right from the start – from the overgrown beginning of the trail to the heaviness of the pack she wasn’t at all used to (I know how that feels!) to the dog situation.

I know Simon was doing his best but was unhappy about not being able to let Shanara run as she always does on hikes.

I got into a place where I just shut everything out – did my best to absorb what was around me – see the beauty. Yes – we did have wows. Yes, we took photos! Yes, there were beautiful moments. The default thing on trips like this is to go to what went wrong. I prefer to see it as a learning experience and I also want to celebrate what went right. We made a good decision to head back on day two. We did our best. We cared about each other’s feelings. We did our best to find fun.

We had chocolate.

And we’ve got so many more wonderful experiences in the alpine yet to come.


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A Fast Pause

Is that an oxymoron? I suppose so – at least something moronic. But I did have to change pace – if just for a while. I’ve been in the kitchen for almost three hours – whew! It started with pickling my cucumbers – 4 quarts put away. Then a bean loaf – then cutting up veggies, boiling eggs, packaging cheese, packaging snacks and then making sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.

I still have tomorrow’s dinner sandwiches to make and then – hey! Guess what? We also have to eat tonight!

Okay – more slaving over a hot stove.

I see where pre-packaged dried hikers food that you just add water to has its place. That said, I’d rather spend a day in the kitchen. I just can’t eat that gunk any more. The worst is that they add a pound or more of salt to it. Yuck!

We shall eat well these next few days.

I’m excited about Silver Cup Ridge. So much has been conspiring to make this the perfect hike. The rains came down again last night and while helicopters are still dousing fires up on Alwyn, the rain made an enormous difference. The next few days are going to be fabulous. I only wish I could bring Abby. I’m going to miss her – my dear, wonderful, steadfast, loyal hiking buddy.

But I know she’ll be better off with Heather.

Deep breath. There’s the thing about being busy – you forget to breathe and stop and just be – to observe and appreciate.

Today I appreciate the beautiful walk we discovered at the park in Winlaw – our abundant garden and the love that surrounds me.

And tomorrow – entering my bliss – again and again and again.

Note: I’ll be off-line for a while.

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