Thursday, July 12, 2012


I finally went hiking one day.
I’d been talking about going for months and suddenly realized, in the midst of a lot of crap, that I had only talked about it and never done it.  Hiking has always been something I love, and I had ignored it.  I understand now that I’m good at that – ignoring my own needs.
I always have this question floating in the back of my mind about whether I’m “good enough”, because if I’m “good enough” I should be there for my friends at all times, I should always drop everything in my life and live everyone elses crisis-laden lives because mine is not worth as much as theirs.
I understood that the demands and expectations of others were allowed to take a back seat.  That I don’t have to care what anyone else thinks, and I don’t have to explain my actions to anyone but God. And if anyone doesn’t like it – eh, screw ‘em.
I finally admitted to myself that I had some inherent value, because God made each of us that way.

I put in for time off on very short notice, and got it.
Looked for a room in a bed & breakfast and got that too.
And I left.
Such a maverick I am.

I got there late on Sunday night.  I left 95 degree heat in Sacramento and arrived to 60 degrees and wind at Pt. Reyes on the north coast of California.
Awesome. (I love this word.)
Pt. Reyes has always been my getaway spot.  Once you get there and start walking the trails there is simply no end to the possibilities of what you may see.  There are trails easy enough for anyone, and others meant only for those looking for a prehistoric setting.  There are places where the canopy is so thick that even when it’s raining heavily no drop will ever reach you, and when it’s sunny all the light is green from the leaves it filters through.
You will always see some wildlife; deer, fox, tule elk, seals, or in my case this day, a bobcat.
I left the main trail for ground that I hadn’t covered before.  Trails I’d never seen.
Different terrain.
New ground.
I sought higher ground which naturally took me uphill.  Uphill always starts out so easy, but the longer you go the more the trail seems to hold you back.  So reluctant to give up your presence on that quiet stretch that’s too steep to rest on even when you need it the most.  I have no choice but to keep going until I find that one little piece of the trail that’s just the slightest bit level so you can stop with no continuous pressure on your calves and thigh muscles.  I get there eventually, but it seems like it took longer than it actually did.
I finally top the ridge and remember oh yeah! I’m on the coast! All that blue?  It’s the ocean I haven’t seen in over a year!  I LOVE the ocean!  Almost as much as I fear it.  It’s overwhelming.
Every time.
It’s always been the one thing on earth that makes me think the most about God.  There’s so much in it that I will never know or understand, but just looking at it I know there’s always more to know about it.  Every single wave that caresses the shore is different.  Its touch changes everything, reshapes everything, always gives me something.
I often think I would be content living in a shack on the shore just watching the ocean all day long.  Waiting to see what it offered up on the beach from one day to the next.

I found another place much later to sit and rest for a few minutes.  Some rocks close to the cliff edge.  I sat down, took my pack off and pulled out a water bottle.
There was a blue belly lizard sunning himself.  He was doing this thing where he pushed up on his front legs repeatedly.  Like he was doing pushups.
I named him Jack LaLizard. (You know, Jack LaLane – fitness guru of the 60’s? Whatever.)
As I got up and put my pack back on I read the signs I’d been ignoring that basically said, “Don’t sit on these rocks they’re too close to the cliff.”  I was a rebel without even knowing it.

As I walked the trails I discovered that I was inadvertently following a predator.
First I saw the stool.
Took me a while to figure out what it was from.  Not a deer or an elk.  Then I noticed some hair and a paw print.
Definitely a cat and thankfully not a big one.
A little further along I found what turned out to be what was left of several small animals; lizards, squirrels and something else I couldn’t identify.

The vestiges.
What a strange word – vestiges.
What’s left behind.

I am a vestige.

As I continue on and get to the highest point on the cliff trail I look to my right and I see the bobcat I’ve been following walking into some tall grass.  He looks at me over his shoulder and determines I am no threat.  He turns his back on me in disdain and walks away; disappearing into the grass without a trace.
I have reached my halfway point.  I have to turn around and retrace my steps.  I tried to find trails that would be more level, but I did go uphill.  I can’t avoid the logic of my steps.
Downhill can be just as painful as uphill.  Particularly when it’s steep enough that attempting to stop would mean you will probably collapse and roll the rest of the way down a significant portion of the trail.  At which point you will come into intimate contact with a large patch of Stinging Nettle.  So I saved myself at the expense of my knees and hips.

There are things I question in life.  Like Stinging Nettle.  I don’t question its existence, but rather the reason for its existence.  Not the process of how it came into existence, but why it exists.  And even more specifically - why do I have to deal with it?
Why do I have to deal with this obstacle?
I don’t have a consistent answer to that by the way.  It changes every day.
Eventually there was level ground, but still a ways to go to reach the end.
The end.
Back there at the beginning.

I kept going because I had no choice.  I would not have done it otherwise.
There was nothing else I could have done.
So be it.
Life is like that now.
One foot in front of the other.
No thought beyond the next step.
Moving in some direction that I realize at some very basic level of consciousness is the right way.

It was here that I walked into this “Hiroshima” moment.
I started this day with something ripped out of me.  Tattered ribbons of my spirit fluttering behind me wherever I went.  The wind howling through the hole where my heart used to be.
This blast that overloaded everything and destroyed me completely.  Left nothing but a shadowy imprint of dust on the remnant of a wall.
But even dust is real.  It has substance.
It is what God breathed life into.

So I inhaled the breath of God and decided to live again.
Probably one of my better choices.
I was what was left, and became what He re-created me to be.
Not a shadow.
Made whole.

There is a part of this trail at the very beginning where the dirt is very fine. You leave a definite footprint as you walk there.  As I walked back to the beginning/end I found the footprints I had left when I began several hours earlier.  I compared them to the footprints I was leaving now.  When I started out my steps were faster, and lighter, and so the prints were shallow.
Now as I returned my steps were heavier and more deliberate, and the prints were much deeper.
I left a greater mark as I left my burdens behind.
I gathered back into myself the substance they had leached out of me.
As I reached a point of physical and mental exhaustion my mind was completely focused on just taking the next step.  I had no energy to devote to dealing with any problems.  Here and now I could process no other thought than, “Take a step forward.  And another.  And another….”
And then as I reached the end and finally sat down and dropped my pack I just didn’t feel the need to take up those burdens once I started thinking again.
I hiked fifteen miles that day, and though it was only fifteen miles I think it was still the longest journey I’ve taken in my life so far.
I drove away, and left my sad, heavy little bundles lying in the dirt.
And there they remain, disintegrating into…
©Dan Bode 2012