So, the second day I was in New Mexico (Wednesday of last week) I woke up at 4:00 am in the morning, local time, which meant I actually slept in a little according to my internal clock. I dozed for another hour or so, but by 5:00 am I was ready to get moving.
I was sleeping in a tent in a campground where I was the sole inhabitant. Maybe it was because of Georgia O'Keeffe's inspiration, or maybe it was because I had made it through the night without being eating by coyotes, but I was feeling braver than usual. So I washed up and drove into Santa Fe in search of the Atalaya Mountain trail which the website I had printed out assured me was one of the most popular short hikes in the area.
So I found the trailhead, found where to park the car and hiked the three miles up to the peak at 9,100 feet. I looked around and thanked God for the place and the day and my life and the world, ate some trail mix, called Dan, and then I hiked back down. I never saw another person the whole morning.
Maybe that doesn't seem like a huge big deal. But for me, it took a lot of guts to do it totally by myself. I grew up in a family that liked to camp and hike, but I never liked it much and completely quit when I was 12. When I met Dan (almost 20 years ago!) I realized that he loved hiking so much that if I was going to love him (and if he was going to love me) I was going to have to go along. We hiked in Scotland and in Switzerland and in New Hampshire, and sometimes it was great, but a lot of the times I was cursing him in my mind for having dragging me along, too fast and too far.
When we got married, Dan's sister Carla joked with me that our vows should read, "I, Heather, agree to go up any peak in any weather, and do solemnly swear to take all the spur trails and still beat book time." I laughed when she said that--sort of.
Kids turned out to be the solution to our hiking issues. They loved to hike, but for a long time they couldn't hike very far or very fast. I finally found my natural pace, and then, as they grew and sped up little by little, so did I.
When I reached the peak of Atalaya, I was at first full of self-congratulations. Finally, I did it on my own! No one made me, no one dragged me or pushed me. I came on my own. Aren't I brave!
I took out my cell phone to call Dan, just to so I could crow about my accomplishment. But somehow, when he picked up, I found myself saying "Thank you!" instead. Yeah, I walked up the mountain myself. I didn't do it to prove anything to him. But I did it because for 20 years, he has loved me and loved mountains, and somehow, in the process, my heart expanded.
So this is who I am, I thought as I walked down. I'm brave and confident and independent. And I'm connected and appreciative and loved. Both. And. Thank you, Jesus!