My RA is flaring right now and this morning was not a sure bet that I’d be dragging myself out the door by 5:30 AM. My hands and feet have felt like every joint was on fire. The joints in my wrist are swollen to an almost comical size. Last night when my chest got involved I nearly bailed. RA doesn’t just affect joints. It can also attack organs and “the good guys” like cartilage. Yesterday the cartilage holding my ribs to my breastbone felt inflamed. So much so, that every deep breath felt like ripping stitches.
A very hard weekend meant little sleep as it was and then this flare, I wasn’t sure I was up for a hike even on a perfect blue sky day. Yoda up sick at 1AM meant Momma B was up at 1AM too. I thought I would never make it. But I did. That 4AM alarm got snoozed the maximum number of times, but I made it out the door at just past 5:30. And with a shower !
The plan was Lena Lake near Hamma Hamma just past Hoodsport. It’s a 7.2 mile rountrip hike through forest to a gorgeous mountain lake. 1300 ft of gain sounded very manageable. And so off I went.
Driving north I was treated to a peekaboo full moon to my left and civil twilight unfolding in the sky to my right; the sky opening up with folds of sherbet colors. I loved every second of it. Near Hoodsport I had lots of chances to pull over, but this one, on this morning, was mostly all mine. I took one photo.
As I drove that forest road 8 miles in to the trailhead, I didn’t see a single car. I was alone at the trailhead. There was something about today. I lingered in the parking lot hoping for company. What’s that about ? I know it takes some of these solo spring hikes to get my courage up, but today felt different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I ate some snacks and when no one arrived by 8, I decided to head up.
I have been living in this high stress place for weeks. The past weekend was a flood of sadness and grief. And maybe as much as that, there have been more questions than answers. More suspicion than certainty. This morning I let the fear in.
I tried to shake it. I talked to myself the whole way. Out loud. In my own world until another hiker came up behind me and said “beautiful day, huh ?” I about jumped out of my skin. I hadn’t heard him coming. Guy was super sweet and I let him pass me.
I reasoned with myself that I really have to get it together. This last third of my life is likely to be all about the many losses. Mobiliity, independence, friends, loved ones. I have slipped into the goodbye phase.
To have just lost my 89 year old friend was painful. To have lost someone last week half that age, was devastating. I still don’t know what to do with all these feelings. I will share about that later. It’s been a very hard few years.
Times like these make me want to gather up all those people I care about, and who care about me, and tuck us all safely under a big cozy blanket. I want the safety of that. I want to be with the people who see me, really see me. I want to give them the attention I often squander on people who really don’t care about me. It’s been a desperately hard lesson. Not everyone can communicate their feelings. They are often the ones content to be misunderstood. Those are not my people.
My world is getting smaller and I’m okay with that. Today it became smaller still. Those who know me, know of my “four quarters theory”. I will always choose four quarters over 20 nickels. Facebook has become my 20 nickels. In a moment of panic and fear, I dropped people from my “friend list” that don’t engage. Facebook doesn’t get to redefine friendship for me. I get to forever choose where to put my attention and it is getting clearer where that should be.
But I digress …
I’m careful on the trail today, as I always am. Hiking alone means one misstep, one twisted knee, one turned ankle, can mean serious trouble out there. I dally. I look at moss. I dig my fingers around in the dirt to pluck a perfect stone or uncover the other half of a mushroom. Today on the lower portion of trail I find a leaf with a face. Then another and another. I realize there is nothing especially random about them, but rather, they are gifts left on the path. I imagine a child, but it could have just as easily been a youngster like myself.
Halfway up, the switchbacks get longer, but at no point on this trail would I call it steep. I would call it a gentle climb through the woods. WTA has been busy clearing downed trees. The evidence is everywhere. There is just one large one left across the trail that you must choose the best passage for yourself. I chose to go under, though I can’t plant my wrists right now for support so I must have looked ridiculous. But I made it. It doesn’t always matter HOW we navigate the path so long as we stay on it.
The lake was beautiful. It sits in a basin surrounded by snowy hills and (today) blue sky. It’s cold. Still winter for a spell and you know it by the chill in the air and the crackle of small ice ledges on the shore. (I’m sure they have a name, but I don’t know it).
Today I decided that 7.2 miles is exactly perfect for my aching body this early in the spring. It’s like my new yoga instructor tells me: feel the stretch, it’s okay to have discomfort. If it’s painful, stop. It defeats the point of the practice. And so be it.
I treated myself in Hoodsport to a Habanero- Vanilla shake at the ice cream and coffee shop in town ( yes, you can be vanilla and still have a hot and spicy side too 🙃). It was actually delicious !
I wondered out loud today if my hiking was a retreat or an escape. It was definitely an escape. And I just cannot shake this feeling that today I am so much more alone in this world.
Here was my day …