Our guest blogger is Nita Gilger, writer and explorer of wide open spaces inside and out.
I was all set. Yes, equipped: hiking boots, hiking pole, hiking socks, hiking jacket, camera, and a pack with water, first aid items and everything else necessary for a quarter mile, easy hike. And the hike was beautiful – Treasure Falls near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I was watching my steps very carefully. There were wet spots and a few steeper places. Yes, I was taking care. Then all of a sudden a tornado of youth struck. A busload of teenagers from a nearby school descended on our peaceful trek. They were not hiking, they were running. Their goal was to get as close to the falls as possible and getting wet was not a problem. The fact that we and others were on the trail went unnoticed. They were running full bore without a thought of caution or safety. Their total abandon filled the air with shrill laughter and it rang through the mountains. I was amused, but what’s more my mind and heart were filled with terrific memories of my youth and adventures from around the world. I remember a time when I was fearless. I was willing to try almost any adventure. Really, I was a new experience junkie and that included the exploration of new places and cultures.
What has changed since those days? For one, I am now 64. But I’m still healthy. For some that age seems ancient. For others, it sounds very young. A lot of life has happened in my six and a half decades–most of it great, but some of it tragic. I know now that the unexpected does happen and it can be dangerous. Nevertheless, at my deepest core I am still an adventurer, a lover of travel and varied life experiences and people. It only seems natural that I am so very attracted to the allure and hopefulness of youth, their idealism, fun and able bodies. But I have also grown wiser in some ways, especially regarding limits and the fragility of life. So my question becomes this: How can I maintain the joy of my younger self while mixing it with later, hard-won wisdom and grace?
The massive waterfall teaches me about the time betwixt and between the idealism of youth and prudence of age. The flow of water begins at the top of the mountain and travels its way downward to merge into the majestic thrust of power we see and feel. There is a time of formation that spans from the confluence of melting snow and springs to the full-blown display of the falls. I saw the teenagers’ exuberance and was reminded of my own journey. Life ebbs and flows and forms a learning path first graced with idealism and then tempered with life’s realities. I treasure the confluence of the gifts of youth with the wisdom of age. Both are teachers and the time in-between is of enormous value.
My Treasure Falls foray among the energetic youth encourages me to hike anyway, to trek onward regardless of what life brings. Maybe I’ll even run down a few paths, get wet, and laugh freely with abandon. I need not be about the business of recreating youthful experiences and memories. I do not want to live in the past, but I do want to remember how to feel totally alive and not only worry about how sure-footed I am. Even so, caution remains necessary and wise. Should I pay attention to bodily changes and needs? Yes i should.
But I can and will still go for it. I say Yes to embracing adventure on trails laced with wisdom and awareness. I say Yes to never forgetting to wonder, for wonder gives such an exhilarating feel for life and love. Wonder can be a healing balm for uncertain times. When I do not know where a trail will take me and I am as lost as can be, it is a traveling mercy to hold wonder in my heart.
Wonder. I do love to wonder and wander. And to say Yes!
P.S. For the record, I typically do many other challenging long hikes. In fact,Treasure Falls is my shortest one yet. Really. I wouldn’t lie to you. I just don’t want you thinking I am that old, not just yet I don’t.