I got to hike my favorite 3.5 mile loop today. I think I'm the luckiest person in the world to get to hike this place every summer.
Today, I hiked alone, and savored every moment. I didn't have anyone pushing me. I could stop and take time to breathe. So many people would call asthma and low vision liabilities, but I've learned to call them blessings. On a hike when I want to push through and conquer the mountain, these two friends of mine make me stop, pause, take in a view, notice a texture. They make me slow down and observe. To take macro photos instead of landscapes.
That, my friends, is a gift. It's my unique window on the world, and I get to enjoy it and share it here, in my little space.
Adding descriptions to each photo so my blind friends can also enjoy the post is another gift. I get to think closely about each image rather than slapping them up here and clicking the publish button. Maybe the thoughts can bring more depth; maybe not. But there they are.
My hiking stick. A symbol of weakness to many; to me it's a symbol of strength and endurance and hiking in places where some would say I don't belong. Those places are where I feel most at home.
To touch a rock. The feeling of a rock, cool and solid on the side of the trail, a thrusting upward of the miles of solidity under my feet. The touch is the only real thing in a sea of swimming images around me. It's worth stopping beside the trail to lay my fingertips on the rock.
Moss on a log. Textures of the forest, soft and moist, receding away from me up a hill that I might pass and never even see.
Trail. The trail leads me on, compelling me to follow it and peer around every new corner, rising to every new height. The trail becomes everything.
Optical illusion. Does it go up or down? Life. Good or bad? There is only onward and each new hidden bend in the road.
Vista. The camera can capture a faraway beauty that the eye does not see. But the sense of space, the sounds far in the distance make it seem open, as if the trees do not actually hide anything at all. Concealing becomes illusion instead of reality.
Berries by the trail. Clumps of sweetness or poison, unknown which it is. I'll snap a photo of them, and walk on past.
Erosion. The trail is full of logs half-buried. The earth will try to swallow them, and if it succeeds the rain can be free to wash the trail into oblivion.
Thimbleberry. And a lacy pattern of holes eaten in a leaf by bugs. Layers of leaves seen through damaged salads and a red berry ripe for picking. Seedy sweetness sitting in sunlight and shadow.
Steep drop-off. Memories of coming down this hill in the rainy dark and fear of this unseen steepness that could take hold of my feet and pull me into gravity's romantic descent. Seeing the steepness today in sunlight should make it more safe: to know the peril is to choose another path, to caress the warm bosom of the patient mountainside.
Stumps. Former trees now waiting for time and rain to reduce growing wood to soft powdered rot and discontinue their ageless task of allowing the path to drape along each trunk.
Growth. This spot, a steep rocky step, I fell last year, my right knee bloodied, my denim torn. This spot, I rose to my feet and kept walking. And this year I did not fall.
Sign at the summit. Jarring reminder to dog owners that their manners mustn't jar. Arrows point, and carved letters spell names of trails that probably have their own names deep in the earth's first song.
Sitting on a log. Stick and shoes and a water bottle leftover from one of Bean's forays into the world of Sprite. Sitting with sweat and accomplishment running down the middle of my back, and still eager to rise again and continue on.
Yarrow growing from a rock in the middle of a trail. Why a rock, little plant? Why the middle of the trail where anyone can step on you? Thank you, because you are strong, and I can see you and touch you right there on your rock in the middle of the trail.
And down again without shade, around the end of 3.5 miles where the Ranger was mending fences, and where my noisy family replaced the solitude of refreshment. Ready again for hugs and stories and sharing snacks. Ready to give more, placed in my own trail, growing from my own rock, I'm also strong.