March 20, 2010

To the Peak

Analogous to life were many of the events of our vacation; however, none as paramount as the little stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The original intent of the stop was to put gas in the car, feel the springs to see if they were actually “hot” and maybe have some lunch. When we departed the area we had actually spent close to three hours.

At the constant urging of my sweet son (with innocent and wide eyes), we began walking up a trail. I didn’t look ahead enough to know where the trail ended but as we made our assent I quickly began to realize how unprepared I was for the journey.

As my heart began to pound and my breathing became labored I found myself saying things like, “mom is too old for this”, “mom doesn’t have on the right shoes for this”, “Uhh…we didn’t even bring any water with us and I haven’t had any water today and I have had a soda and I think I read someplace that one might dehydrate if they exert this much physical energy without drinking water…and I am sweating…and…” even, “mom is going to sit right here and wait for you to go up without me”. Really, if there were an excuse to be had, I used it.

Eventually, I shut up. Not because I didn’t want to complain anymore or that I had run out of excuses to spew but because I was gasping for breath and couldn’t get the words out! So I began to think. And thinking is something that can lead me to very dark or very enlightened places. Thank goodness, I came to a very positive and free-thinking place this time.

The entire trip, and frankly, the last four months has been filled with thoughts of my mother. I assume this a natural process of grieving the death of someone so close. This trip seemed to bring her to mind even more than usual. The memories are likely because many family vacations were taken when I was growing up to similar places. And for the reason that my mother accompanied me on many of my own vacations in recent years…I attribute the traveling spirit in me to genetics.

I began thinking about the anger I generally experience prior to my acknowledgment that I actually hurt. This fact is something I know but forget when I am feeling anger. I considered how much of an impact this has in my desire to be vulnerable. My mom died and I miss her. It was while walking up that trail that I became conscious of how much that is about hurt and how little it is about anger.

This trek also brought to mind that I am time and again searching for direction and opportunities to be vulnerable, at the same time I am pushing it away from my grasp. By the third time I sat to gaze at the wonderment of nature along this journey I felt my heart embrace the progress I have made. I began to acknowledge my wisdom as if breathing it in to acceptance of my spirit.

We met fellow travelers along the trail. I asked one if it was worth it. He said it definitely was. The next set, a family with small children, told us how close we were to getting there. Knowing others had gone before me encouraged me to work even harder so I would have the chance to see the miracle they promised me was to come.

When we reached the peak the reward was to pay a small fee to be shuttled up an elevator in a 216 foot observation tower. From the top we were able to look out and see for 140 miles. As the other viewers were witness to the majesty of nature, I was looking out of this tower with a completely different set of eyes. I saw my life and my experiences more clearly. I saw the collection of heartache melding with joy, which have resulted in so many lessons learned. I saw my journey and its culmination to this point.

As we began our descent down the same path, my son chuckled several times pointing out the actual places where mom almost gave up! He said with a smile, “well, mom, that rock is where you sat the last time you told me to go on without you” and “that tree limb is where you said you were going to die”. He spoke astutely beyond awareness, at the time, of the education received by his mom during those hiking moments.

In my short time on earth I have been presented with challenge after challenge. Rarely was I prepared as they came into existence. Frequently they were painful. Once in a while I felt as though I would break in two as I struggled through. Seldom did I think I could do it.

Nevertheless, I succeeded. Even when I didn’t win I made it to the top. For me that equals success since I learned so much….and had I allowed all of the excuses I had to triumph…I would have never given myself the opportunity. I said it at least a dozen times to my son and perhaps I might also consider speaking it to those who have believed in me throughout life…. “Thanks for the idea of going to the top. Thanks for pushing me the entire way. I would have missed a lot if I had stopped along the way”.

After we reached our starting place again I sat in amazement of the most beautiful rhododendron that I didn’t even remember seeing before we began.

Oh, and the springs…..actually hotter than we imagined!

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