Monday, October 31, 2022

Notes on my coffee cup

Humanity is complicated. It is broken. It is resilient. Some rise from the ashes and some stumble and cannot get back up. I find myself staring, sometimes from afar, at the lives of people - some whom I know and love deeply, and some whom I've just briefly encountered. The impossible is thrown at absolutely everyone. Each person, at an individual level, is required to respond to it. People I've talked with in just the past week: 

The survivor of a brain aneurysm who found new life, new purpose and a determination to more-than-survive past the impossible. 

The officer who experienced a brain tumor, lost vision in one eye, lived through radiation not once but twice, regained his vision, but ultimately lost the ability to pursue his career path. 

The husband who lost his wife in a complicated and messy series of choices and events. He is living one day and then the next. He is loving his children fiercely. He is facing tomorrow because he has breath and reason. He is strong. He is broken. He is being molded and it is beautiful and it is... messy. 

The wife loving her husband through Parkinson's and advanced Alzheimers as his primary caretaker. She finds solace and comfort in her gardens and her spunky pup. Her husband remembers and adore her still, most of the time. Every day is impossible but she will face tomorrow. 

The girl who was hit by a car while riding her scooter to work. Her face bears the bruises and cuts but she miraculously is mostly unharmed and she has a new determination to face tomorrow... with a helmet on. 

The sister who lost a beloved brother. How does one survive this kind of pain? 

The woman who lost her home, her place of refuge, to the hungry mouth of a raging wildfire. Yesterday (a couple months ago), on her knees, sobbing, asking why, clutching to the memories. Today, making plans to rebuild once again. Hiring a master artist to carve a bear into the skeleton of one of her scorched pine trees. Beauty from ashes. 

A neighborhood devastated by fire and water coming together to rebuild. Moving dirt, rocks, sharing tools, giving time, helping where help is needed. More water will probably come - fire may come again one day, too - but no one is alone in all of it. 

The wife watching her husband battle pain all day, every day, for years. Holding his hand, but more importantly, holding his heart always and forever in her own. The love these two have for one another brings me to tears. It is profound and it is painful. Through their pain they give constantly to others. Tomorrow will come and they will rise, together, and face it. 

The best friend who just had another surgery and is unable to take the pain killers to ease the healing process. Life has thrown garbage at her time and again, but she wakes up, cries her tears in every shower and her smile is the richest and truest of anyone I have ever known. She will face tomorrow on her knees, with trembling in her heart and absolute trust in her maker. 

The little girl who came flying off a bucking horse and determined that she would get back on. 

The woman who has dedicated 20 years of her life to working faithfully the job that was put before her. She has grown as a person and as an employee. She has become successful in ways that she never envisioned or planned, but simply because she has always done it well. All of it. The stuff of life. Her job teeters on the edge of failure or success... she waits and she shows up to tomorrow to do what is set before her. 

There is more, but it's too much. The resilience of humanity is absolutely remarkable. We need each other. And in so many ways, we must find the strength and resolve in ourselves. It's not found in being remarkable. It's found in living, in facing tomorrow, in doing the impossible because we have to. It's found through our weakness. The tiny things in life become profoundly special. 

Personal notes on my coffee cup on a cold Thursday morning. 

The dog that loves fiercely in spite of herself (she's not nice) and the boy that adores her. 

A faithful friend. 

A cousin who has become a best friend and never stops making me laugh. 

An epic birthday cake failure to celebrate 70 years of a wonderful man's life. 

Mastering a braid even though my hands were numb from fatigue after moving rocks all day. Yay! 

Watching my mom take on my hill and almost conquer it today after a year or more of extreme health challenges. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

17 Miles

 The wind started howling against the house last night, ushering in a coming storm. I find myself in a wrestling match: sleep vs. the active mind. It's not dread that keeps me awake, though there is undoubtedly some measure of anxiety that is an added ingredient to the thoughts galloping through my head at 4:00 AM. 2022 and the events that it has escorted our way has changed all of us, as does every passing year; this year, however, has left its imprint more evidently upon ourselves in some ways. I doubt I'll ever love the wind, since I never have. I do hope someday to love the sound of rain and to face coming storms with anticipation once again. For now, though, I must content myself with a hot cup of tea and my galloping thoughts as company.

 My friend, Andrea, decided to embrace her 40th year with an epic hike and asked me to join her, much to my delight. On Thursday morning this week we got a 3:00 AM start and headed to the Grand Canyon. We picked up a shuttle bus at the lodge and then started our hike in the dark morning hours at the South Kaibab trailhead. We used headlamps for about 35 minutes until the light started to peak up on the horizon. The morning light on the canyon walls is mesmerizing; it's a bit challenging to hike by, honestly, because looking at your feet and where you are going becomes less of a priority. :-) 

South Kaibab is a fairly steep trail, by comparison to some of the other trails, so you descend into the canyon fairly quickly. The views are breathtaking. I think the most outstanding revelation to me on this hike was the canyons within canyons that make up the Grand Canyon. One could spend a lifetime trying to know it all. And its magical draw has probably beckoned some to do exactly that! 

We hiked to the Colorado River at the base of the canyon, and crossed over the river twice using the black bridge. From the S. Kaibab trail hikers are welcomed across the bridge via a tunnel. Super neat!  We saw 900-1000 year old Native American pueblos alongside the river, called the Bright Angel Pueblos. Archeologists believe it was the dwelling place of an extended family. The early people in this beautiful place clearly appreciated and valued some of the same things we see as glorious and important.

We started our journey upward by crossing the river again using the silver bridge and then following the trail along the river for a while before the Bright Angel trail ushered us up a slow, steady climb to the top again. It was a hard push to the "halfway" point at the Indian Gardens campground where we were able to sit for a bit, top off our water and use the bathroom. We crawled out of the canyon in the early evening and had we not been so tired we might have done a victory dance. :-) We went 17 miles and conquered almost 5000 feet in elevation. I'm happy to report that so far I only have some sore calves from the adventure which is not much to complain about. 

It was an epic day that I will treasure all of my days. There is something mysterious about that place and I know more clearly why it calls people back to itself over and over again. It is not just Grand because it is the longest canyon on earth... 

Thank you to my fabulous hiking buddy for making this dream a reality for me.