Stopping and Going

Steady rain and four of the Bramley Mountain Five (aka The Woof Pack, The Striped Marauders, and other less family friendly names) were my hiking partners this morning. We opted for the long loop, gaining and losing elevation like kids learning to ski: up to the top of the bunny hill and back down again as many times as we could handle until we were ready to drop from exhaustion and exposure. The dogs, that is, were ready to drop, and drop they did, in the muddiest vernal pools they could find. I was doing ok: the recent trail maintenance hikes with a heavy pack have helped to condition my legs and lungs to harder work than I’ve done in a while. The rain meant no camera, so I was moving more freely, arms swinging, nothing to hang onto, nothing to protect from drizzle, nothing to prevent from getting bashed by canine drive-bys.

The boulder field was carpeted with white wood violets. My eyes darted right and left; the field full of flowers acknowledged. My brain announced what my eyes had taken in as I continued on, without breaking stride. About a step and a half later I stopped. That was a field full of white wood violets. STOP AND LOOK AT THEM, you idiot. Stop walking and look at the damn beauty.


white wood violets

Side note: this is an on-going theme in my life. I catch myself scrolling through my Instagram feed, flipping past breathtaking photo after breathtaking photo, looking but not enjoying, seeing but moving on as if I had something else to do. Just checking off a box before getting to the real thing I meant to do when I picked up my phone, right? But no, looking at fantastic professional photos in my own handheld gallery is exactly why I am on Instagram. It is the point; it is the thing I’m doing.

Being disconnected and distracted isn’t new to me. Long before instragram or even personal computers — throwing it all the way back to the 1970s when I ran around in the woods with no camera, no cell phone, and only one dog — I moved too fast and saw without savoring. I saw wildflowers I’d read about and jumped for joy… and kept right on going up the mountain.

I never stop. I don’t like to rest. I eat too fast. I walk fast, on the trail or in the supermarket. I read books as if there was a prize at the end. I came this way from the factory. It’s just who I am.

But I know better. I don’t want to race to the grave; I want to enjoy my visit here. I want to savor it, to know it, to glean every nuance such that at the end of the day I have no regrets.

So I stopped. I stood still and I feasted my eyes on the violets. I drank in the amazing moment, the explosion of bloom and the dot matrix of white against brown leaf litter and gray rock.

I was instantly swarmed by blackflies and all the dogs took off. Sigh. Why do the dogs behave when I have a camera in my face, but act like wild maniacs when I don’t? Who knows. Now I’m all alone, under attack, and in a bad mood, with 4 dogs to track down and no snow to give me clues as to their whereabouts.

So much for patience and savoring and spiritual metaphors. I move fast because it makes sense for me to move fast. I move fast, harvesting the sensory experiences as I keep going, because I need to keep going. Stopping is a luxury for people who don’t have a pack of neo-wolves. Stopping is for people who need to stop. I need to keep moving. I can unpack those experiences when I sit down at beer thirty to share my day with the hubby. But in the moment? I think I’ll keep moving.



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