Wander Log

Ouzel Lake

I wake slowly, reluctantly.

My eyelids are glued shut with sleep and a bit of last night's mascara that dodged my half-hearted cleansing routine. It's cloudy outside, and I remember my last foray into the Park, when we were cut short by lightning. I consider the amount of sleep I've gotten recently, the champagne I drank last night, and the laundry I have to do. I imagine staying here, tucked into the down comforter and 800-thread count sheets. As if sensing my deliberation, Pearl stirs next to my face and purrs.

I hear Dad click on the coffee pot in the kitchen, and its initial belch triggers something in me. I sit upright with a sudden sense of urgency: it's nice to be in bed, but it's nicer to be in the mountains.

The early morning idleness has erased any parking advantage gleaned by living close to the Park. When I arrive, the Ranger who greets me advises that the nearest parking will be a mile and a half from the trailhead. I do the math in my head, and realize that an extra three miles round-trip will render the planned route impossible - I've started too late. I ask for a recommendation, and she indicates a nearby location. I point at the next two or three landmarks down the trail; she glances up skeptically - "Do you plan to run?" We both tilt our heads up at the clouds, the impending storm. I shrug, hitch my pack over my shoulders, and start to walk down the road. 

At first, there are lots of others on the trail. I marvel at young parents with babies on their backs and other small children in tow. I imagine trying to rouse not only myself, but other sleepy and resistant humans in the morning. I'm glad to be alone today. Moving at a determined clip, I pass the families. I pass the more athletic father-and-son duos, teenagers at peak health and seasoned mountaineers. I slip through the trees, grateful my only companion is a pair of headphones.

After a few miles, my mind has emptied. The sky, too, has cleared of clouds, and I admire the blue above. As I rise, the trees thin and sunlight leaks through the forest canopy, illuminating flecks of mica lining the path. At times, my thoughts are vast, global, floating upward and outward, swirling through Space and the stars. Sometimes, they are microscopic, contemplative of flowers or insects, even bacteria.

I reach the "safe" destination I picked as I left the ranger station. I assess the cloud cover, my cell phone battery, my energy. I survey the crumpled, damp map pulled from my backpack. I keep walking.

With each step, I recharge. The fullness of day-to-day life is draining: fluorescent lighting, honking horns, traffic, waiting in line, sifting through junk emails. There is a direct correlation to sustained stimulation in my surroundings, and the emptiness I feel inside. It's not that I resent loudness, the built environment, or small talk - but those things require energy. Flowers, trees, birdsong, the whoosh of a small creek...all of these give energy. Nature renews and restores, provides the balance necessary for a week behind the computer. This physical exercise is the harmony to 40 hours of mental acrobatics. 

Abruptly, the trees break and I gasp. I have visited countless subalpine lakes, yet each is stunningly unique and equally breathtaking. It is wide and shallow, evidenced by a lone fly fisherman who has waded out to the center, silently casting and recasting. Nothing bites, but the surface is still and smooth, somehow both reflective and translucent. Simultaneously, I can see the green algae and smoothed stones below the water, and the still-white-tipped peaks, upended.

I am in the palm of twelve- and thirteen-thousand-plus foot mountains, cradled. There is stillness but for the chattering creek, an occasional ruffle of the spongy grass.

In the city, we are discrete units. We are separate. 

In the mountains, I am broken apart; my skin is no longer a barrier, but an egress: I flow out, while Nature flows in. We are the same.

I will sleep deeply tonight, and I will return to work on Monday once again determined to change the world.

I take a deep breath, and I feel full.