this past week i was in the sierras, backpacking with my sweetheart and a handful of dear friends in the mountains just north of yosemite. we hiked way further then we initially had intended, but it was well worth it. shooting stars, quiet lakes, sunsets from the tops of peaks, thunderstorms, camp fires, and always a barely palatable freeze-dried dinner to top off the evening. julius had his own backpack, a source of unending pleasure for me. i pretty much can just stare at him all day anyways, but with a doggie backpack on? completely mesmerizing.
i have to admit, coming back home, i miss the mountains. i miss that feeling of having everything you need in one small pack, the freedom of not having to be anywhere or be anything other than an animal, walking through meadows and resting by lakes and eating snacks. i like not thinking about what i’m going to wear, because there is only one option. i like not having mirrors around. i like that cell phones don’t exist, and there is not even the chance that the chirping of a bird can be mistaken for the phantom ring of the phone. i like the simplicity of backpacking. nothing superfluous: just water, food, bedding, hiking shoes, and a backpack for your dog. obviously we had more things than that, but it’s the feeling of simplicity of which i speak. there is not a ton of choice. you look at the map with your friends, come to a consensus of where to hike, then hike. you talk some, but mostly you watch the grass and granite pass under your feet at a slow and steady pace, you hear your breath, slightly more labored at 9,000 feet, and you watch your dog try to pass the person in front only to get thwarted by the unfamiliar berth of his backpack knocking into trees and rocks. it’s a feeling of truly living, as if this were indeed the culmination of the evolutionary mechanisms designed to develop the human mind: to finally stop fretting over the bills, the kids, the relationship, and drop into meditative bliss. take a load off. except, in this case, put a 50 lb load on.
now i’m back to the land of skittle-colored flowers, weeds going to seed, and dirty knees. which, don’t get me wrong, i am incredibly happy about. my first night home i stopped by my friend’s, and also my next door neighbors, for dinner. a collection of my favorite farmers were there, sharing in a just-roasted chicken from one of the many we’d raised together as a group this summer, corn on the cob with lobs of butter, baked potatoes with sour cream (and more butter), cucumber-tomato-basil salad, and fresh strawberries with cream. this was basically the opposite of what we ate on our trip, and i was unapologetically pleased.
so how is it that i can wax poetic about farm fresh food when a minute ago i was praising the austere beauty of being in the mountains, sleeping under the stars, and eating the grossest, not-quite-reconstituted pad thai of my life?
it’s because, from instant oatmeal to the fresh cucumbers and everything in between, there is a lot to be grateful for. there are terrible things happening in the world right now, and here i am lucky enough to be able to eat, to walk, to do work that i love, and to turn on my faucet and have clean clear potable water come flowing out. i even have the luxury to go into the mountains, wave a magic pen in my nalgene, and have clean water appear there too. this is why the world is full of poetry. it is generous and it is good. sad things and painful things happen and we suffer. but in nature especially, peace is as accessible as we open ourselves up to seeing that it is all around us.
i’ll admit that this post was mainly an excuse to put my dog and his backpack on our website (since this has almost nothing to do with flowers). but i’m also writing to remember, and to remind myself, that whatever happens in a day – whether it storms and the night before you slept on pinecones and then this morning you mistakenly ate part of a pot-cookie and proceeding to trip your brains out for 8 hours (just a random, totally impersonal example) – that even if things seem uncomfortable or stressful, there is still the opportunity to affirm what is good. i could complain about my back or the food or the fact that i forgot my toothbrush. or i could close my eyes and listen to the wind going thru the trees and smile and say thanks for what nature gives us so freely. cold mountain lakes and luscious dahlias, black bears and preying mantises, purple carrots and golden beets, and of course, snickers bars and doggie backpacks.