The last two days here I've nearly turned down a couple of invitations - one, to go fly-fishing, and the other to go on a hike into the Rocky Mountains. It wasn't the destinations themselves that did it (I mean, I'm in Colorado for a reason!) - but maybe I was just tired, or in the middle of something, or wanted to be alone, or just got a dose of inertia at the last minute.
But I've had this thing that I do lately when I'm confronted with having to make a choice between two things. I remind myself that I know exactly what's going to happen if I do the thing I know. And that's fine. It's comfortable and certain and safe. But it's not particularly interesting. It doesn't really go anywhere. And I don't really go anywhere either. But to choose the thing I don't know...well, there's a lot of possibility in it. It's like a map I get to create from the beginning. This act of moving forward into unknown territory gifts me not just the unforeseen scenery along the way, but it also elevates my awareness. I'm more porous and awake to my surroundings. I become curious about both the expanse and the minutiae of where I am. I find new connections and alliances with people. And I expand my bank of memories. I become bigger and deeper and wider.
And so, with that in mind, I hopped into the backseat of the car, unaware that the fly-fishing adventure would involve a three-hour drive to the remote wilderness and a walk through marshy meadows that would get by sneakers wet and mosquitos that would hover stubbornly by my ears. But then, I hadn't anticipated the rewards either - a sense of utter serenity standing with a fishing rod next to a burbling mountain stream, the quality of afternoon light against the trees and the warmth pulsing out of the forest, the sweetness of the alpine air, the moose by the side of the road on the drive back, the sunset on route 34, the dinner in Walden at the Moose Creek Cafe, the Russian waitress and her story, Korby belting out a snippet of a Russian aria in the diner, the man who walked to our table to tell her that was the best opera singing he'd ever heard, and the sleepy comaraderie of the long ride home.
Yesterday, it was the hike to Mt. Ida smack dab in the middle of the Rockies. I said to my uncle, "I think I'm going to hang back." The morning had been lazy. I was full and comatose from breakfast. I needed to do a little work on the computer. But then I remembered: I know what will happen if I stay. The afternoon will slide by and I'll get my work done and I'll have a mild sense of accomplishment and I'll probably feel a little restless from not having moved very much.
So I put on more sunscreen and refilled the water bottle for the umpteenth time and packed my windbreaker and a graperfruit and off we went.
On the trail, I kept thinking: I almost missed this.
And the "this" was not to be missed. One beauty after another after another. It's hard to describe even in pictures. And the climb. The steady effort of my legs. The deep breaths I took to help my lungs adjust to the altitude. The way my arms swung up to lift me above the roots and stones. A connection to the competence of my body, to its yearnings for movement. The gift of the buffeting wind. The sight of snow. The marmots skittering near the summit. The tiny wildflowers along the path. The sound of my uncle's breathing. My cousin and her stories. My aunt's laughter. This was a three-dimensional experience. And to miss it would have been to miss more than the view at the top.
We head back home tomorrow - me to my mom's house in Amherst, and my uncle and his family to Connecticut. And I'm excited to see where my next yeses will lead.