We met on a dirt trail. Me in a dirty heap, with blood oozing down my left arm, my thumb hanging by its tendon. Gravel and more dirt ground into my hair, across my legs, my bike in a heap next to me. Strangers had helped me remove my bike helmet and encouraged me to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out. I was making some jokes about my state of affairs as the crowd grew around me. Wondering, no doubt, how I could have crashed on this really flat spot of the mountain bike trail.
He stood quietly nearby, his mountain bike and his riding buddies watching over me until the paramedics arrived to cart me away. He saw me but I didn’t see him. We formally met each other two months later when I returned to the trails to ride with his group. He rode at the back of the group with me and taught me how to ride, be safe, and shared the pure joy of playing outside again with me at 50 years young and him at 58.
We fell in love while we rode into new wilderness places together or hiked new trails he introduced to me. We got married 10 years later. Third time was a special charm for both of us. Riding and hiking into out sunset years, welcoming mature love into our last chapters, we return as often as possible to wilderness places to find ourselves again and again. The best part of us. The honest, forever young, happy, spiritual seekers we recognize in each other…. out there. We always find it and return refreshed.
Last week-end we headed out to Palm Springs for a sunny pool retreat. We included a hike up the North Lykken Trail above the city. I’d been up on the trail on two other visits to P.S. I was anxious to take Al up there, knowing he would love it’s wild, rugged, winding trail and the vast view it offered of the desert floor below.
The craggy rocks and bold boulders, the zig zaggy trail required us to mind our footfalls and stay focused. Our hiking poles were keeping us well balanced. The early morning sun was warm, not hot, yet. The trail rose quickly but spread cool shadows across us, carrying us up and up. We paused to catch our breath now and again and for a chance to look how far we’d come. And to look up at the merging of bright blue above and the determined, jagged silhouette of this mountain that held us.
Al always wants to go farther. I’m usually the one that says, we need to turn around now. The sun was hotter, our water supply dwindling, and knowing our knees would require patience on our part to hike down, he agreed. One hour out, would be one hour back.
On our descend, we both commented on the special feeling this trail had, how it seemed to draw you up and in it, and that only the hearty hiker would be moved to be up on this mountain as every step required attention.
Four days later, back home, we were still talking about the magical feeling this trail offered. And why it felt like I sensed a presence around us. I’d kept looking around on the way down, wondering if I heard or saw something. A coyote watching? A snake? A Native spirit? A ghost? (Albeit a good ghost.)
Al finds his confidence and identity out there where nature brings out the best of us. A quiet man, he chooses his words carefully. If I want him to talk to me more, I invite him out to the nearest dirt trails to hike or bike together. It loosens up the tightness that suburbia delivers.
He had something to share with me. “ I think that hiking out in the desert, on a trail like this, with no trees, low brush, mostly rocks with all life very close to the ground, allows our own spirit to be free. And that what we sense around us is actually our very own energy flow, our own spirit. That when we hike in a forested area, or even the other desert trail we’ve hiked surrounded by palm trees, we are aware of the energy of those trees.”
He continued. “Trees and all life have energy and we’ve never hiked such a sparse trail like this before. There are usually trees and canyons and more plants. But out on this trail our body energy was able to fly freely about, unobstructed by trees or larger boulders and such. I think we became aware of out own energy flying about us. I thnk that’s what you heard; what you sensed. And I did as well.”
And so it is. Me and Al finding us. Out there. And by the pool. And the hot tub. And the cozy, private room that afforded us a lovely leisure and resbite from the noises of a busy world.