17 January 2009

Rocks Rock

Having recently been benched for the rest of the rugby season by an injury, I have allowed myself to slack off the workout routine, primarily because much of it is off limits till the doctor says otherwise. I can still do cardio but the pain of recuperation has dampened my enthusiasm for even that. So I owe serious thanks to Zinj for inspiring me to get off my arse, not wait for full recovery, and start some serious, strenuous, push-yourself-to-the-point-of-pain movement. Once I got out there, I realized how much I'd missed it, even for just a few weeks. So thanks Zinjer for pushing, even if you didn't intend to.

This morning the sun rose to find me hiking up the slope of the tallest mountain for many miles around, one I'd vowed a while ago to conquer but never made the time for. Today was the day. Lots of metaphors along the way, too. The trail a lot like life, steep and sometimes very rocky. Who knows what lurking along the way (bobcats, rattlesnakes, etc.) that can sometimes strike out at you without warning, so better think ahead and be prepared. Take something along to lean on and steady your progress (a hiking stick in this case, draw what comparisons you will). Don't forget to stop and admire the view and review your progress from time to time.

Once past the foothills and up onto the steeper slope of the mountain, suddenly I began to feel very unsteady. Though I love hiking, I'm also a bit acrophobic. Naturally there's no guard rail along the trail rim, just an unpleasant drop down the mountainside. I hug the inner part of the trail as much as possible. Brain says "you're going to fall, you're going to be hurt." I stop. I'm about 3/4 of the way up the mountain and it's getting steeper, the mountainside slope more sheer. I look up toward the summit. Should I be satisfied with the miles I've hiked so far, and turn back?

No, I tell myself. How can I face myself or my kids later if I can say only that I went most of the way up but then turned back because I was scared? Keep going. So I focus on the trail, don't look up or out toward the trail's edge. You're not going to fall, I repeat over and over. And if you do, you won't be hurt much. Focus on the trail. Still rocky but safe. Trail slopes upward, corner after corner that looks from below like it just ends in blue sky. I can't see what's ahead. Brain still dizzy. But I force myself to keep going anyway. I don't dare look out at the view to my left. As I reach each corner that looks like it dead ends way up in the middle of the air, nowhere, I see that it curves round and keeps going. So do I.

Before I know it, the summit is in sight. I'm feeling better. I've weathered the crisis, haven't given in to the fears. I stride up the last few hundred yards of the trail to the top of the mountain. I am rewarded with three things.

One, a 360 degree view of indescribable beauty, I can see other mountain crests that I know are close to 100 miles away. The Mahler 8th Symphony playing on the iPod--one of the most magnificent pieces of music ever written--matched the views and my mood.

Two, increased courage from not giving into any fears and pushing myself to keep going even when part of me wanted to stop.

Three, the surprising realization that the nervousness about being up so high was actually gone. I stayed up on the mountaintop for a while, slowly walking about to take in different views. Such amazing beauty. Then descended the same way I came, with no dizziness or fears of the height whatsoever. The sunlight, the fresh air, the fragrant vegetation, the exhilaration of exertion and pushing myself to climb up and over all those steep and rocky slopes, Mahler's trumpets and triumphant choruses ringing in my ears, all made for an exhilarating experience. I actually ran down the last part of the trail at full speed, as the Mahler came to a crashing roaring close, same elated feeling as running on the beach with Beethoven's 9th as soundtrack. I wanted to fly, soar through the air.

Life's full of rocks. Sometimes they hurt a lot. But I'm glad they're there, they force us to push ourselves, and they can be beautiful to look at too, sometimes. Zinj has talked about being on the bench, which really sucks, I know exactly what he means. I don't have the answers. All I can do is keep moving forward doing the best I can, climbing over the rocks, trying to have faith that I won't fall and even if I do, I won't be hurt too badly. Push myself forward even at the risk of pain. Savor it when it happens, because it's better than not being able to feel anything. I don't know where I'm going or where I'll end up. But I hope that when I get there, I'll find the acrophobia has disappeared and the views and understanding are worth the difficulties along the way.

P.S. In order to keep this post from totally obnoxious loftiness (pardon the pun), I should also point out the humorous irony of me using the Mahler 8th as soundtrack for a story told to this particular blog audience. Mahler wrote his 2 hour 8th Symphony essentially as a love song to his wife--who thereafter completely flaked out on him (I know how he feels) and left him for another man. Another shining example of a traditional marriage. But at least the music is wonderful.


Ezra said...

I love hiking, it's a great way to clear your head.

Z i n j said...

Rugby Man...I feel your pain but want to share your view....the terrain I find interesting. I know it's East of Washington and West of the Pacific. Any other clues?