hike

The summit

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

I just got back from a three week escape to the mountains of North Carolina, just off of Lake Toxaway in a cabin in the woods. While that may sound like a luxury to many people, I think it was completely necessary for me at this point in my life/career/year. I had reached the pinnacle of burnout. I was tired, cynical, doubtful and hurt. Being a photographer isn't for the faint of heart - especially in a market like Charleston where you can't swing a cat without hitting someone who carries the moniker around with them. It was time for a break. 

While I did break a little, I also did a lot of work. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but I did a lot of work on me...goals, dreams, values, and overall wellness. I meditated. I wrote. I thought. I slept...boy, did I sleep. And I challenged myself...physically, mentally and spiritually.

One of the most memorable moments on the trip for me was this hike to Raven Rock Falls on theToxaway River Trail. It's a special hike that takes you back and forth over the river to ultimately end up at this spectacular site - a towering 60+ foot waterfall that cascades and ends in a frigid pool by your feet. It wasn't my first time hiking this trail, but let's just say after 20 years, it felt like my first time hiking anything.

I expected to be challenged physically, but what I wasn't expecting is the emotional ways in which the hike would challenge me. I struggled, always last in line in the group. My footing was unsure. My body was cumbersome. I was sweaty and hot and hungry and nothing felt right. And to be honest, I felt downright mad about it all. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to stop...to just sit there, like a stubborn mule on the rock, refusing to move forward. I felt as frustrated as a little child in my skin.  But the group pushed me to forge ahead to the final summit.

During the second half of our hike, I noticed something shifting. With each step forward, I saw us working together as a group. We looked out for each other. We took our time. We shared stories and laughter and our water rations. Suddenly, my perspective changed. Pushing through the hard parts encouraged me more. I wasn't thinking of how miserable I felt. I was thinking of how much fun I was having, how beautiful this was, how healthy and strong I felt. I stopped worrying and started just living in the reality of the moment. I stopped fighting the currents and let it take me where it was going to.

It is said that nothing good comes easefully. And I have to agree with that. Life's greatest moments are challenging - sometimes even when you are on vacation. While I took some time off this month from work, I was still working. My "work" became checking in with myself. My hike was a reminder that while there may be challenges and slippery rocks underfoot, you just have to keep on going. You may fall. You will stumble. You will sweat and maybe even cry a little. But you have to keep going. It doesn't have to be pretty. But you do have to finish what you started. 

So as I keep climbing through life - sweating on the path, slipping on the rocks - I will remember it's not always easy. But it is always worth it in the end.

 

Your Path.

I talk a lot about paths and roadways. I think perhaps because often mine hasn't been clearly marked and traveled (and also because I love a good hike or roadtrip). I always was attracted to the unclear path...the one with adventure and uncertainty along the way. I don't know why this appeals to me except that it seems like I just never felt that I wanted to march to the safe beat of a predictable drum. I wanted a path of the explorer and the adventurer. I wanted to be anything but ordinary.

But aren't we all that way? We are all looking to forge our own unique, individual path? Even if we take the predictable route, there is still individuality on the path - because it's ours. Nobody has the same experiences - even on that well worn path. There are always twists and turns, branches in our way. or fallen trees that trip us up. It's still our path. Even if it looks as recognizable as the next guy's...school, job, marriage, kids, soccer games, holidays, etc.

The important part is that you are forging ahead. The essential part is that you are experiencing it for all it's worth - the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. The hurdles and the turns. Take them in. Drink them up. They are life. This is your life.

This is your path. Define it. Own it. Walk it proudly.

 

Into the woods

forest

I grew up with a forest for my back yard. Not a national park, but woods so deep they never seemed to end. I would get lost back there for hours, wandering and wondering about things that only I knew about in my own head.  I would lose time – examining leaves, tree bark and chasing fireflies as I quickly forgot about time and how I measured up in a world that seemed to be so limiting for me...even then.  I would stay out there until I was called back for dinner or bedtime, weary and drunk from the air that seemed so fresh and pure.  So it's no wonder that even today,  I still feel most at home in the woods.

There is a sense of embracing that envelopes my soul when I stand amongst the trees still, hearing the crunching and snapping of the twigs and leaves below my feet. I don't worry about who I will encounter or what I may come across. I feel supported - as though there is nothing to worry about but me, the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my body. I feel loved and protected. I feel safe....and understood.

I don't live near much of a forest these days. So every chance I get to be amongst the comfort of the tall trees and the quiet rustle of the ground covering is like some form of unpaid therapy to me. We travel far and wide so I can breathe in the earthiness of forest floors as I my every step seems to kick up another smell as I leave behind another worry, another issue, another problem. And nobody seems to mind as I stop to catch my breath as we climb higher and further away from every little thing that was tying me up in the first place.

And I just fit right back in - comfortably into this world without boundaries or borders to tell me what I have done wrong or right. I fit right back into to home.