Wednesday, March 30, 2011


                This morning when I rise, my left foot is aching a little bit.  I consider not hiking the butte today, briefly.  But the hills outside my little place are wispy with fog, and the wind is bending the trees.  I’ll have the whole place to myself today.  And the climbing is so good, it’s hard to think of not going.
                I make a quick breakfast, load the laundry and my day pack into the trunk of the car, and head for town.  And before I know it, the laundry is done, and my pack is where it belongs, on my shoulders.  I start up the steep power line trail, stepping carefully through the muddy ruts.  There are blown down trees across the path here, freshly fallen since last Sunday, at least a dozen of them.  Their huge root systems are turned sideways, their jagged, broken limbs driven into the ground.  Their root systems are turned sideways, revealing fresh earth and stones.  I step around them and top the hill, walking out into the Fox Hollow parking lot.
                Now my foot is hurting more seriously, and I stand at the trailhead, looking up at the broad, bare summit of the butte.  An injury now would mean losing the whole season.  I turn and head down, reminded of other summits long ago that were not taken.  And in the retreat, I re-discover an old gift.
                I’m descending by the easy trail, and walking slow, to favor my aching foot.  There are Trilliums blooming here, tiny white blossoms nested in triplets of dark green leaves.  The flowers, heavy with rain,  appear to look down at the ground as if they were shy.  To my right, a long steep hillside soars above me, completely covered in bracken fern.  The sun breaks for a moment, shining directly on the hillside, and suddenly all the rain drops on the delicate fronds are turned into shimmering diamonds.   Above, there are oak trees with still more ferns growing on their high, stout limbs.  This world smells strongly of damp earth.  If a hobbit came wandering around the trail up ahead, I would not be a bit surprised.
                There’s a tall, old fir above me that has broken off in last week’s sudden wind, about twenty feet above the ground.  It did not reach the ground, but landed against a neighbor, leaning there, as if beseeching him for help.  This one will surely go down in the next spring squall.  And it reminds me of the old advice: always look up before you pitch your tent.
                Today I’m reminded of the real gift of the hills.  The burn is fantastic, the views exhilarating.  But the real gift of the hills is the celebration of each moment just as it is.

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