As a kid and young adult, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I hiked and backpacked, mountain biked and camped. This past decade, I can count—on one hand—how many times I’ve been outdoors. It has been one the great failings of this life that I’ve created for myself. This is something I knew a while back but it wasn’t until this morning that I realized how much I missed being out in the woods. The steady rhythm of my hiking boots striking the earth (in this case, ice) and the labored breathing after a brisk hike up the hill felt like home.
I woke up early, headed out to the trail head just before sunrise. It was chilly, maybe just below freezing, and the trail was covered in a veneer of crusty ice. The ground felt solid beneath my feet, the air sharp and crisp making noise echo for hundreds of yards. At 7 in the morning on New Year’s Day, there wasn’t another soul out on the trail. I forgot how lovely the solitude in the woods feels.
A lot of things rose to the top of my head while hiking (most painful was how out of shape I am!). Mostly, I thought about the past few years. I thought about the life I want to lead and the life I’m currently leading; they aren’t in sync just yet. My life is pretty good but I need more time out in the woods, more time with friends, more time outside the inside of my head. Hiking is superb for thinking about one’s life; there’s a grounding to one’s surroundings that allows thoughts to leap out and wander when hiking.
(Side note: I want to learn to sail this summer and one of my biggest fears is that lack of grounding. The earth supports you; I’ve always felt like giant, corporeal tree trunks sprout up from the earth, connecting to each foot fall when I hike. But sailing terrifies me for the very lack of support to that grounding force. There’s nothing but nothing below you in a boat!)
The hike, all 2 and a half hours of it (5.5 miles, thank you very much) was something I wanted to do to start the New Year. It was a committment I made to myself a few weeks back. Most often, I allow myself to persuade myself to just stay home. But, that hasn’t produced the life I want to live. Just a few entries ago I wrote about a life behind squares and how unfulfilling that is. My hike was my statement to take myself seriously.
This is the Year of Fear. That is my 2017 theme. If something scares me, I know I need to do it. If it comes between sitting at home in comfort or staring down swells in a sailboat in a storm, I’m forcing myself to choose the storm. I want the shit scared out of me this year. New experiences, new habits, new patterns. Growth doesn’t come with comfort. Comfort isn’t going to be part of my vocabulary anymore. I am tired of being afraid but the only way I’m going to get over that is to terrify myself.
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