The Path is Never Easy

Some random person asked me the other day, ‘What do you do on your hikes? Pictures! Or just looking around?’ And, I really didn’t have an answer. I mean, I did, sorta–but, how to put it in words that didn’t make me sound totally crazy was a challenge. I summed it up, via a quick message, but I kept thinking about that question. Especially because I have a couple of different ‘types’ of hikes. I have ones that aren’t so enjoyable, and ones that make me feel amazing–what was the difference between the two? The location can be the same, so can the weather–yet, the experience can be 100% different.

So, what do I do on a hike (when I want to make it a hike that I walk away from feeling awesome)? I do nothing. I go in with no expectations. I try to think about nothing other that what I’m seeing, and hearing, and smelling, and feeling. I go in with wide eyes, and with curiosity.  I go in looking for signs of life–critter prints, plant growth, missing bark, running water, insects. I go in looking for signs of the season–fresh snow, new sprouts, barely frozen water, migrating birds, the absence (or return) of cold-blooded critters, flowers, leaf changes. I go into the hike with only the gear I’ll need, the appropriate clothing (most of the time), and my phone. I take time when I walk; I look, and I listen, and every time my mind starts to wander too far from the path (metaphorically speaking), I quietly bring it back. If my brain keeps going back to the SAME place over, and over, I’ll let myself dwell on those thoughts, but only as fast as I’m walking. My mind races all the time, even when I sleep–there is no reason it needs to be running so fast all the time. I also pray often, and I always give thanks, while also feeling humbled, for all that is around me. When all of the above comes together, I feel like I’m ‘realigning’. I can feel an energy come through me again that wasn’t there before–like spring sap running through a trunk again. I feel grounded. I feel the energies all around me, within nature, and I feel whole. I have been told that these are the reasons meditation is so important for a healthy mind–heck, I use all of the meditation techniques that I’ve learned while hiking–I just happen to be very bad at meditating for more than about three minutes. Being out in nature combines a little adventure, with a little meditation–I can do that, easily. When I’m alone, all of this is pretty simple. When I’m with the kids, things are much noisier and I have to carry a lot more–but, these are all the things I try to pass onto them as we adventure on. Those are are the fun hikes. 🙂

What have I realized I do on a hike that isn’t so enjoyable? I go out there with something in mind–like I have a purpose. I have been on beautiful hikes, all geared up, chasing a sunset–but, the whole time I’m just looking for the best spot to shoot from, while also racing the sun. Things become technical, while out in the least ‘technical’ place ever. I’ve went into hikes while super angry–expecting it to calm me down. The whole time I felt upset, and I couldn’t get my mind to stop racing long enough to let space in, in-between all the thoughts. When I got back to my car, I was still upset. I forgot to be in control of my thoughts enough to calm them–I can hear the energy in nature only when I’m listening to it (it doesn’t talk like we do). To listen, I can’t be talking. I’ve also, on a much more surfacy level, went into a hike with the wrong shoes. That can ruin it all–thinking about every, single, step on rough terrain because your shoes have zero tread is terrible, and dangerous.  OR, if I don’t wear waterproof footwear…I really hate walking with wet feet. Ugh.

Anyway, I think I summed all of that up into about seven sentences, via message–but, I kept thinking about it after that. Some folks run, some do drugs, some seek therapy, some go out with friends, some find solace in loud music, or yard work, or weight lifting–I find it outdoors. (Also, just FYI, I have been known to find it in all of those other things, as well. 😉 )

Yesterday, I went out for a hike. Parts of the trails were flooded–but, I knew that going into it. (Besides, I was happy to see my favorite little stream look like a giant river for once. 🙂 ) I’ve had a weekend that has brought my mind into about a million different places, and my emotions have went with it. Getting into the woods a bit was more out of necessity than anything. It’s tough at home; I do most things alone there and with three kiddos, a couple pets, schedules, and working from home every time the kids are in bed–it makes it so I can’t just let my mind wander for more than a couple minutes at a time. I was able to just clear my brain out yesterday, and let the thoughts come to me. I found some clarity on something that has been eating away at me, and I was reminded that life is much like a spring hike…

There are always different paths to take. None are completely WRONG, so-to-speak–some are, definitely, harder however. Some paths have more obstacles, and may require a bit more of an open mind for navigating your way around things. Some paths that were once easy are now gone, and some paths that look easy aren’t at all–once you get around the bend. On every path though (this time of year), you are either going to get sucked in (to the mud), sink (in the water), or slip (on the packed snow). Every path requires not only a choice ahead of time, but also skill (and definite misstep) after the choice is made. No matter what, it’s tough. Period. There is, however, beauty on every path. There is wonder, and there is growth, and there is thoughtfulness–those things are all easy to see, as long as you’re not so stuck in frustration, while swearing about the difficulties, and the missteps. 

Now, all those metaphors, and thoughts, didn’t solve a damn thing in my mind–but, they made the things in my mind feel okay. There was reassurance in those thoughts that felt like a big ‘ol hug to my messy self. Every emotion swirling around, and all those paths that go with it all, became totally normal–all I had to do was look around me to see that; all that truth was all around me. Now, like I said–nothing was solved. Maybe next weekend I can get out again–but, for the week, I believe loud music may have to be my vice. (The kids like dancing to Halsey, Chris Stapleton, P!nk and Fall Out Boy–so, it just doubles as a dance party. Oh. And yeah, I’ll throw in some ‘Everything is Awesome’ for them, too. 🙂 )

Anyway. Just a few phone photos…

Growth. There’s a lot of decay around it–but, it doesn’t matter. Growth is inevitable when the time is right.
One side of the trail is slippery. One side is muddy, and mucky. It was an easy, downhill trail–but, it also wasn’t. Also, notice, good footwear. 😉

The first photo is from almost exactly three months before when the second one was taken…

winter, photographer, minnesota, mn, outdoors, snow, twin cities, think tank, samsung, galaxy, elm creek, photography, hiking
December 29
March 30
Mossy, and melting…
Though I feel more like this version of me lately…

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