The Essential Me

The essentisal me


In my first backpacking blog I asked if I’m a pre-60 mountaineer or a post-60 older woman? The answer is yes. This trip helped me understand where I am in the timeline of my life. I’m not ready for the Tempurpedic full time, even if it comes with lobster and martinis. But I can pass on the “no guts no glory” attitude I had as the pre-60 mountaineer. Challenging oneself doesn’t end at any age. It is a joy and the catalyst of life.Physically I now know I can do what I used to do – much more slowly.  As I watched teenage girls, with their muscular legs in short shorts confidently striding passed me at a pace that covered several miles an hour – and they carried packs as heavy as mine, I was jealous of the power they embodied.  I had that power once.  Where will I find it now?  Perhaps in knowing myself.  Were there blisters?  One made its presence known but never grew to its full potential.   Knee damage?   I wore a brace and the pain was gone by the third day.  Cold rocks?   No longer a hurdle.  Ball of my foot?  As ha?  Titanium does as well as bone did.  The aches and pains I had before leaving were warnings to me to pay attention.  And so, although a bit embarrassed, I fell into an old pattern as I mentioned in another blog: hike one hundred steps, rest twenty seconds ad infinitum if I needed to.  My worst problem: morning and evening stiffness – and I have that at home.

Mentally, spiritually and emotionally – nothing has changed.  I am amazed at the well-oiled machine I slip back into.  Ed and I have been hiking together for years and before that my ex-husband John and I had a similar pattern.  Get up in the morning.  He heats the water and starts breakfast while I stuff the sleeping bags, roll up the mats, clean out the tent and turn it up to dry.  (This keeps me in the warm tent as long as I can drag it out.)  I pump the water for the day.  We get our teeth brushed, camp cleaned up and we get on the trail.  Walk.  Up.  Down.  Just walk, for hours, sometimes without hearing another human voice.  Water announces itself with a trickle, a quiet swish, or a roar.  Birds call.  My favorite sound, wind in the pines, catches my breath.  Snow, the air smells of snow, although most of it is at higher altitudes.  Cedar and pine scent cling to me.  My legs are strong once I get warmed up.  I know I can count on each step and with the poles I have in either hand I’m balanced and all of me works smoothly together.  A moving meditation.  “’The routine is important to me,’ said a successful painter who works in her studio for four hours five times a week.  ‘When I get started, there’s a wonderful sense of well-being.  I like to feel myself plodding along.  I specifically choose that word, plod.  When it’s going good, I feel this is the essential me.  It’s the routine itself that feeds me.  If I didn’t do it, I’d be betraying the essential me.’” (From Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment by George Leonard.)

the essential me 2

We arrive in camp and set up the tent before anything else.  Ed prepares the kitchen while I put out the pads and sleeping bags.  Someone pumps water.  Then we’re free to do whatever we want.  I write.  He roams.  It gets dark, we share dinner and a bit of rum in our hot chocolate, and we go to bed.  We get up in the morning, he heats water, while I…




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