Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sweet Side

After Friday yoga, I go to the Olympia Farmers’ Market to fill my mom’s order for green vegetables and peaches; and a couple more honey crisp apples for me, in spite of the fact that there are buckets of transparents and gravensteins on the porch picked from the trees at my home and the neighbor's. Passing the cart of red, yellow, green, and orange peppers-its sign proclaiming one side as the sweet side, as opposed to the other hot side-I think, there next to the end waters of Puget Sound under the blue sky and the free-wheeling gulls, “yep, I am living on the sweet side." The sweet side of life, the sweet side of this country. (In my opinion, of course.)

My yoga instructor had offered earlier that there are two sides to all things. As we enter into this season of autumn and cooler weather and stillness, the southern hemisphere is gearing up for summer. As I stilled myself in supta baddha konasana, I thought about my life and how just about everything has a flip side. For every gladness there is a complementary ache; and vice versa.

I would be beginning the annual ritual of pulling out summer vinca and marigolds pretty soon in North Carolina, and planting winter pansies. It is a duality of tasks that always made me a little sad, since the summer annuals were still pretty; until I started doing it, then I enjoyed creating openness. I haven’t bonded with my mother’s garden, beyond enjoying its beauty; but I do hope to enhance and renourish the soil this fall in the little patch around my patio to ready it for spring planting. Maybe by then I will be ready to create another garden. Sometimes all we can do is prepare and then wait to see what inspiration might come to us.

Thursday I take off for Mt. Rainier: one last romp in Paradise before the onset of winter snows shuts it down. It is a beautiful day, only somewhat marred by the eau du smoke de plumé from the wildfires on the eastern side of the mountains that mostly dominates the alpine parfum. Every now and then, I round a curve and come up close to the timberline trees and my nostrils fill with the true essence of paradise. The smoky haze obliterates the view of the rest of the snowcaps behind the silhouetted Tatoosh Range, but at my back, Mother Mountain is clear as a bell. Two sides.

I hike up Dead Horse Creek trail, the one that was still under snow when I was there earlier in the summer, then detour off onto the Moraine trail. It is mostly a non-maintained trail, with a sign warning hikers to "travel safely and make minimal impact." It is a beautiful footpath through an alpine meadow of mossy dampness, up close and personal to the mountain. I can hear the roar of the waterfall coming off the glacier; and, I guess, boulders rumbling as they bounce down the bare rock and ice slopes. Though I scan the slopes when I hear it, I never detect motion.

Back on Dead Horse Creek, I follow the trail to where it joins with the Skyline trail. Three or four years ago, I hiked up the other side of the loop until it came to the permanent snow field and turned back without reaching Panorama Point, in view on the other side. This time I take the trail clockwise to the Point. I eat my sandwich on the promontory at the base of the top of the world and wish I could see the other mountains: Adams, St. Helens, Baker; I did go to all that climbing effort, afterall. I watch a man with neither poles nor cleats, either brave or stupid, cross the steeply-pitched snow field from the other side. When he arrives, I comment on the personality choices I had assigned to him, and he wonders if he might be both. He says he saw the sign, .8 miles up and over, .3 across, and figures that’s a no-brainer. I think he lost his. One slip would be a really quick trip back to the lodge.

Pleased to realize I have more in me, I head up the High Skyline trail, the one up and over the snowfield. (I don’t have a death wish.) I get to the apex of the trail, the highest point one can climb on this mountain without equipment and a sherpa, and am rewarded with an art installation! Dozens of carefully stacked and balanced sculptures of volcanic rock on boulders. I am unspeakably enchanted. (The brave/stupid, “take the shortest route” guy, missed it.) I wander around the rocky point looking at the efforts, and add my own contribution. Community art in the high Cascades.

I had thought I would turn around here and return the way I came. Though the other side of the loop is my favorite side of the mountain with its vast meadows and gentle slopes of brilliant color, it is a considerably longer descent. (It is also a considerably longer ascent. I don’t know if that is the reason for the burning lungs and shaky legs I recall from my last trip up the trail, or if I am also in better shape today-thanks to three years of yoga.) But, what the heck, I am in no hurry. I head down the other side.

I immediately encounter a three foot length of very narrow path around a point. I am so filled with fear I forget to take a picture. Or maybe that is because I am, now, going to turn around; I don't want to record my failure. Having just met a quite elderly couple who had obviously navigated it, though, I decide as I did at Hurricane Ridge, not to let my fear win the day. I take it carefully, holding onto the embedded rock shards that is taking up the inside half of the trail, and not stepping on small loose rocks. Also trying not to think of the father that fell off a similar spot on another mountain in front of his young son a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t fall off; the rest of the trail is glorious. And I am enormously proud of myself. I have never done the entire Skyline. It is an elevation change of 1700 feet from the lodge, to a height of more that 7000 feet-nearly (only) half the elevation at the summit. But it is my summit, and I claim success.

I meet another couple, brother and sister about my age, coming up the other way. He comments on the smokiness, and blotted out views, and then shrugs and says, “That’s what the experience is on this day.” Indeed. Everyday is our experience on this day. However bitter (or hot pepper hot) it may seem, surely there is some moment of sweetness.

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.

This day is surely one on the sweet side of my life.


Bonnie Rae said...

Wow ! Spectacular ! I love that you solo hike and that you're adventurous and courageous.I love that you love Mt Rainier ♡

Bonnie Rae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.