|The shallow "waterfall" at Temescal; the mark of a dry year?|
Four years ago I would never have thought to hike alone. As silly as it sounds, I was scared of the idea of hiking in general. Not scared for my life. Scared that I’d not be in shape enough to hack it or that I’d take a misstep and end up with a skinned knee. I did not trust myself. I did not trust my body.
A hike didn’t seem like something I wanted to do for fun.
Back then, I had this friend. She was older and braver than I was by a long shot. When she caught wind of the fact that I was scared to go for real hikes, she got on my case. She was indignant: I was going hiking with her. And so the next time she invited me for a morning hike, I didn’t tell her I wanted to sleep in (which was true!) or that I had something else to do. I just showed up at her doorstep.
Her brown pit bull pup jumped into the back seat, far happier than I was for the impending hike.
We drove up to Mandeville Canyon (not a very steep hike at all), and I took a deep breath as I got out of the car. This wasn’t so bad, I thought. Not so bad at all. But my friend, well, she was seasoned.
And about a half foot taller than me. She and Daphne Dog eventually left me in the dust. I was not sure-footed.
Slowly, I climbed that hill. We hiked more and more after that. Then I began hiking with other friends, too.
Eventually, I learned that being sure-footed wasn’t so much about talent or natural-born athleticism. It was simply about finding the balance between where to place your next step and being confident about it as you step there.
Besides, taking the wrong step doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll fall. It might just mean you better be ready to stick your other foot on some solid ground really fast. And even if you do trip a little, who cares? Maybe you slide down that hill a little bit and get a skinned knee. That will heal. Most things do with time. Other things do not.
It’s important to know the difference.
On Sunday, I hiked and I remembered this friend and her influence on me. The world had unexpectedly lost her the week before. For this reason and more, I felt heavy and my mind felt blurry.
I left the trail to get a better view of a bluebird (you don’t just see those in this city) and had to really climb to get there and back safely. But as I did it, I knew I could. Even though the dirt was sliding out from beneath my feet, I made it safely back to the trail.
As I walked, my heart felt lighter. I hummed the songs in my head, and I stopped to admire the colors of the leaves and rocks and flowers around me. I remembered some of the things I love about myself and my life, the things that seemed forgotten or brushed aside in the fury of the week.
And I planned my next steps. I am sure-footed.