Years ago in different days, my friend JF and I worked a Peter Arbic route in Lake Louise called Incomplete. I even still have grainy, early-cell-phone-days footage of us grunting our way up this thing. We should have been able to climb it, but we didn’t. We needed something more that hadn’t been found in us yet. But we had fun.
I’ve had a different day today. Returning to work feeling, well, different. I was bombarded as soon as I walked in the door, my jacket still on and my glasses fogged. After that I had some focus, stuck in the office with a co-worker I’d rather not be stuck with, headphones on so I could kind of ignore him, but still there in my space.
In the afternoon I went for a walk through the forest along the now closed golf course and left my cell phone at the office. I paid attention to motion in the woods and the weeds, to the sound of birds in front and behind me. I watched a magpie high in a tree, silver clouds moving quickly as a backdrop.
When I got home from work I went for a run in the mountains and didn’t see a soul. I paid attention to the rhythm of my breathing, my footprints in the fresh snow and the weight of the water bottle in my left hand. I felt the effort in my thighs climbing the hills, and the ease of things on the descents.
Our roommate for the winter, a Swedish athlete, got home from work as I was making dinner and we talked about trails to run. We talked about the hike he did into glorious country the week before and he showed me pictures of mountains and mountain lakes. There’s something in me so desperate to show him our mountains and backcountry. He’s the kind of soul that gets it.
So with all this goodness, why do I feel this sadness? When I think of things that are so perfect, those long, long, long solitary runs in the hills, sodden early season snowflakes melting on my face, the high wind in the treetops, the clouds. The sun trickling over a mountain. The glaciers above Lake Louise. There’s a distance between myself and those things that I’m trying to close, that I need to close. I know this but I don’t know exactly how to do it, and the lacking is ruinous.
I went on a Shinrin Yoku walk this weekend with someone I having a growing fondness and respect for. Three hours in the forests of our mountains spent slowly and deliberately. I didn’t feel the sadness then. I felt tenderness and kinship, a sense of belonging.
In spite of my love of moving quickly through the mountains, I’m going to try spending more time moving slowly and paying attention. I’ll let you know how it goes.