School, Patriotism and the Erotic Woods


It occurs to me as I rise in these early morning hours that my experience is really of “school” as much as it is about “church”. There is a certain reverence to be had whether learning or observing. This morning it felt like school.

I learn something new on each of these mornings. Today, I walked out of the kitchen at 3:33 AM. Even with a painfully slow series of traffic lights in Auburn, I hit I-90 at exactly 4:00 AM. I may or may not be observing the posted speed limit signs. By 4:15 AM I am rustling through my bag in the parking lot at Rattlesnake Lake. Phone, flashlight and my new bear bell. Check. This morning there are dozens of cars and my heart sinks a little. While I love a few chosen  companions, what I am learning is that I come here for the solitude, not the company. I head up despite my reservations about finding a crowd at the top.

Here are a few more things I learned today: Life is short. Like, really unbelievably short for all that there is to experience. An old friend lost her grandson several days ago to a violent confrontation with police. Here. In Kent. He was barely 20. He is black. Should that be a factor in telling this story ? Unfortunately it is. All my hundreds of feelings about this as an issue I will save for another time. For today, I am learning to recognize the fragile nature of our very lives. We don’t have the luxury of time that we think we do.

I’m learning each of these mornings what I should carry with me up the mountain and what I should ultimately leave behind. My 10 essentials are the tangible necessities, my worry and fear are not. As I climb these familiar hills my mind is free to wander and ponder. I write some up at the top, but the rest of my time is spent dreaming. I’ve learned that my dreams are light and they don’t have either the weight or the burden of worry.

I’m learning that my hundreds of weekly sit-ups are strengthening my core and it feels really good to do these 4 miles in the morning. My endurance is better and Sunday is my best night of sleep.

I’m learning that the trail never really changes. It is this beautiful constant in my world. How I feel, changes. What I experience, changes. But the path is always the same. It feels so symbolic to me. As the dawn broke this morning, I found myself noticing the softer side of everything. The jagged heart rocks seemed to soften in this low light. I noticed other things, too. The wispy ferns, the bubbles of foamy froth on the stems of blooming flowers. And then I saw other things and realized that these woods were erotic this morning. There aren’t new things on this trail, but today I saw it from a different perspective. It is alive and sexy as the woods become drenched in light. Early morning can do that.

Sunrise this morning was a tease. The handful of folks I joined at the second ledge thought so too. Little gasps of light peeked over the mountain in their cool shades of blue and grey. We wondered aloud if there was more coming. They chatted and posed for photos. A drone came over us, lingering with its annoying buzz. I watched as the rays of sun turned a brilliant yellow-orange. I had my tea. I listened to the chatter as long as I could and then climbed higher. Ahhh, my salvation. Quiet, private ledge at the top all to myself.

At the top I mused about what this day means. Independence Day, indeed. I definitely celebrate the spirit of it as I learn to trust myself more. I am learning to trust my intuition. Learning to trust my abilities. I’m venturing further and further from my comfort zone and it is thrilling. My personal independence I celebrate with wild exuberance !

As for the Patriotism part ? I am at odds. On the one hand, I have never felt more connected to the part of this country I live in. The splendor of it washes over me and I am so often without words. It is the social fabric that I worry about. In many ways I have never been less proud to be an American. We put the class bully in charge and we are suffering the consequences. He has neither the intelligence or the compassion to actually lead a meeting, let alone a whole nation. It has been described to me as something that happened because of our inattention. Damn us our distractions. It is painful to watch and heartbreaking to witness the divisions that have broadened. If it were a chasm before, it is an abyss now. We should quite literally be building bridges. We should be creating ways to close the gaps but instead they are becoming deeper. Wider. And at what cost. Don’t talk to me about taxes and guns and privilege. None of that shit matters. It doesn’t matter now and, at the end of both good and miserable lives, it won’t matter then either. If being patriotic means that I defend the actions of this president, I’m no patriot.

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