“I do nothing. It is more difficult than it sounds,” responded one of my companions from the Strolling Bears. I had asked how she connects with the mystery that runs deep within life. “I allow Life to live,” she continued, tipping her head to one side. “It takes awareness and patient attention to catch the current of where it is flowing.” It was an unexpected response and one that fed my thoughts as we hiked along the trail beside a rushing river coming down from Mount Shasta.
The scene was amazing. Dancing rapids and singing river to the right. Hillsides of moss- covered rock which were home to layers of small plants, wild flowers and grasses of all sizes and shapes. They made a tapestry of varied shades of green with pink, yellow and purple bright threads woven in. Above, there was a blue sky with gentle breeze to ease the heat. Below, a rock and packed soil path, narrow enough to keep me focused on “just this step.”
We had lunch overlooking a small waterfall, little more than a series of rapids with their own waves splashing back into other bowls of rock. On the return, we paused to soak our feet in the icy waters and laughed at the complexity of getting out of and back into socks and hiking boots. I had remained alone, toward the back of the group, most of the hike, and it was great to have this companionship of cold toes and river-water moistened hair.
There is a picture of me, one sock in my fingers and a butterfly resting on the back of my hand, licking salt and water from my skin. That butterfly visited each of us, resting on hand or finger for a leisurely rest. When we got ready to leave, it landed on the back of my head and rode there for about a quarter of a mile, sipping river water and tapping my scalp with its long tongue. My mind played with the idea of a butterfly symbolizing transformation, and me carrying it along, coming up with, “I am a vehicle for transformation.”
When my friend had left me and the weariness of being 3.2 miles into a 4 mile hike began to set in, life turned again. I came around a corner in the trail and my three companions were talking with a young hiker from the Pacific Crest Trail. She was looking for a ride out into town. My fatigue eased and I chatted with her as we returned to our car. She is from New Zealand, completing California sections of the PCT she could not do last year due to fires and smoke in this area.
What started as a ride to town ended up with her being our cabin guest for the night. She was delighted with the shower and a place to unfold her sleeping bag and sleep through the afternoon. Bill made one of his famous pasta sauces and we added chocolate cake for dessert. Dinner was enjoyed sitting outside our motor home, sharing stories and book recommendations back and forth. Her perspectives as a 20+ from a “tiny country on the bottom of the world” meshed seamlessly with our 60+ perspective on living simply here. She spoke of living on the trail; waking in the night and seeing spiders on the outside of her tent, having her tent blow over on top of her, walking long hours on road portions of the trail that beat your legs and tire you whole body. She also shared the joys of seeing bear and snake, stars and eagles, and making friends along the way. We spoke of the freedom of living in our home on wheels and our appreciation for our place here at the edge of a meadow with pine trees, with Black Butte as the backdrop. What a wonderful gift.
The next morning I got to spend more time with Shuffles (her trail name) driving her to the segment of the PCT near Dunsmuir she needed to complete. I came back to pick her up and set her on her way toward Burney Falls. It was great watching her walk off, big pack comfortably on her back – one who loves to hike and is living her dream.
I could not have imagined a more lovely two days in my life. Why would I feel that there is something I am seeking, something more that I need to discover? Life, when allowed to flow where it will, makes it perfect to be carried by its marvelous currents.