Sunday, March 27, 2005

blue skies, blue hills, and the kindness of strangers


Eager to get out in this gloriously beautiful day, I took my winter-tired self down to the Blue Hills for a bit of a hike. There was still a surprising amount of snow on the ground, making the going a slipperier affair than I was planning on. Maybe because of that (I spent a lot more time looking straight down at the ground than usual), or maybe just because I'm gifted with an innate ability to get lost in seemingly idiot-proof surroundings, I soon found my one hour ramble stretching into two, then three hours of increasingly anxious trekking.

After reaching the summit of what felt like the 600th slush-covered hill, I was starting to worry that 1) I might not find my way out again before the sun went down, cooling the air beyond the ability of my light jacket to warm me against, and 2) I really should have brought more than one measly granola bar.

As luck would have it, just as I was beginning to feel genuinely nervous, I heard someone tromping my way. Sheepishly, I told him that I was lost and in need of a little help, and he kindly directed me back to the path I needed to be on to get home. A half hour later, I was back at the trailhead; my little white car never looked so good.

Home again, I'm struck by how elated I feel after my minor adventure; I really feel as though what Eliot Garbauskas calls "my unsinkable affection for the world" has been renewed. It's a scary kind of feeling as well as a joyous one; inherent in the feeling of falling in love with life again is the vertiginous awareness of how precarious that life really is.

Two lessons from my Blue Hills adventure give me heart, though:

First, one feature I noticed over and over again along the paths was the unusual way the snow was melting. The snow itself had been packed down by numerous hikers into an icy sheet, the edges of which clung to the steep grade of the trail. The middle of each sheet, though, had been warmed to transparency by the sun, and I could see little rivulets of melted runoff trickling underneath them, like tiny subterranean rivers. The metaphor that struck me was one of movement and change stirring beneath a thin veneer of icy crust - mirroring my own slow progress towards active interconnection, slowly building behind my often icy, hermity exterior.

The second lesson was simpler and more direct; I needed help, and help arrived. If I hadn't run into the kind man who gave me directions, I might still be wandering around those hills.

Instead, I'm back at home, a little happier, a little wiser, and hoping that I'll remember this next time I feel lost and alone: help will always arrive, if I just keep walking.


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