May 13, 2009
ADVENTURE #2: The Inspirational Duck
I had today's "adventure" planned out. But now I realize there is something wrong about that statement. Somehow I don't think "adventure" and "planned" are really supposed to be used in the same sentence. But, oh well, I did.
I decided to go for a six mile hike after work. The hike was supposed to take me through old, sun-dappled oak groves; along calm and sparkling waters; up lush, green hillsides, through cool, shaded forests; down and around dry, lizard-littered brush; through grassy, mountain pastures and finally along a mountain ridge trail with amazing views of the whole valley as far as the eye can see. Sound nice? Well, that isn't exactly what I did.
I park my car and start out. It is very nice and quiet and peaceful along the fire road that parallels a narrow creek through the woods. The forest breaks and the trail starts up a steep hill. At the top of the hill is the lovely water; calm and sparkling with a circumference of trees and mountains.
Sigh. This is when the peacefulness part ends. There is a shooting range way across the lake and you can hear the never-ending sound of gunshots reverberating through the small valley. At first I do a good job of ignoring it, especially as I travel along the perimeter of the water and discover a new crop of wildflowers to be enjoyed.
I take my time observing the wildflowers before continuing on.
The trail breaks from the perimeter of the water and heads into a beautiful, elegant, oak grove. It is the kind of tree grove that you can't help noticing. You just can't. If you were thinking about something else when you enter this grove, you immediately stop. The serenity here wakes you, in the gentlest of ways, to a more beautiful waking dream then you could have had while asleep. There are small pockets of magical places on earth. This is one of them.
I exit the grove and the trail begins to climb deeper into the forest and up the hillside. Everything turns a glowing, emerald green. But by now, the time I had allotted for this hike has really come to an end. I took so long and I had only gone a 1/4 of the way! This is when my mind becomes my worst enemy and I berate myself for not completing what I set out to do. This goes on for a time and I get more and more pissed off for not having gone further. In this competitive world we live in, isn't that what everyone is trying to do? To have more, get more, do more, go faster? How is this relatively short hike an adventure or a break from ordinary life? Give me a break! Hmm... Maybe that is exactly what I need to do, give myself a break. This is supposed to be FUN! And, well, it is! As soon as my mind gets involved it stops being fun.
So I stop. I look around. I take in all that is around me. The quiet, the forest noises (intermingled with gun shot sounds, unfortunately), it has a calming factor like cool water on a blazing, hot day. When you walk (or run or bike or whatever) through a forest, things, such as birds and animals, run from you. But when you stop and are still, new things emerge. The forest becomes alive as the animals, birds, insects come out of hiding. You are not alone in the woods, there is life all around you. Energizing.
Reluctantly, I make my way back. Of course, my mind interjects its negativity again at every opportunity. I do my best to continue to enjoy my surroundings but it gets harder and harder as I get closer and closer to the end of the trail. By the time I reach the end, I am back in my superbly negative state. In a desperate attempt to not leave in such a bad mood, I stop along the bridge that leads to my car. I hear the creek running below and I know that running water always seems to have a calming affect. I look over the tall rail, down at the shallow creek and, to my surprise, I find a there is a lone duck in the creek.
I have seen plenty of ducks in ponds and lakes, but never in running water. He seems to be looking for and eating something out of the creek. The duck looks at peace with its surroundings; at peace with its current activity in life. At peace with wherever it is and whatever it is doing at that moment. Maybe that is the key, not to plan adventures, but to find it in every day things. The adventures of swimming in a creek and looking for food. Maybe, because we have become so insulated from the world around us in our jobs, homes, etc., our lives have become sterile and we no longer venture out. Maybe that is where adventure takes place. The duck inspires me to live life with peace, the adventure of my everyday, ordinary life.