As usual on Sundays, I headed up one of the many peaks in the Northern Mountain Preserve in Phoenix earlier today.
There is something about the mountains here in Arizona – they are so accessible; you can drive as little as five minutes and be at the base of a large preserve, and thanks to urban sprawl in the lateral direction, you can see for hundreds of miles once you are at the peak. A gift in and of itself.
Hiking this time of year has so many additional treats. Depending on where you go, you may have the privilege of seeing other hikers, horse riders, and even mountain bikers clad in holiday attire as they make their trek. You also have the freedom to be one of those holiday-clad people…
With cooler temperatures and a still prominent dose of sunshine, it is a time of year when many are inspired to take on the challenge of being active outside and getting an early start on burning off those already accumulated holiday calories.
For some, the peace and quiet one finds standing at the peak is also additionally serene this time of year as it stands in direct juxtaposition to the often chaotic moments of December family gatherings.
Today, though, a very unique moment occurred on the mountain: one that, shall we say, I did not see coming. And neither did my soon to be friend. Allow me to explain things as they unfolded.
You know how everyone has their own…shall we say…STYLE of working out? There are the
the L-VAWS [Leaden-vest, ankle weight soldiers]
the Full perfume, make up, and up-do types,
the S&M [Slow and methodical – of course. This is a PG blog…sort of]
and the I-take-my-cell phone-calls-while-I-work out types
Just to name a few
I will shamelessly admit, my music becomes but a backdrop to the main stage of the characters I see but usually never meet.
Today as I neared the top of the mountain, my brain on a thousand different things, I saw a women reach the top, gently tap the chain linked fence [as is common practice for no understandable reason], and turn back around for her descent. She was wearing a blue pull over and leggings with trail shoes and was carefully placing one foot in front of the other. Ever so carefully, almost like a gymnast walking the balance beam.
I noticed she was holding her cell phone out in front of her in an almost-precarious sort of way. I immediately felt drawn to her. She appeared to have a sense of peace and calm that I aspire to have. As she neared me, I noticed the cell phone she held out was beeping. I stopped in my tracks. In a few milliseconds hundreds of gigs of information seemed to deluge me and I suddenly understood:
This woman was blind…
Standing hundreds of feet high.
Having the same – yet an entirely different – work out as myself.
I said hello quietly and we began a brief but powerful discussion
It turns out that what I thought was her cell phone as actually a device that assesses topographical changes and distances and issues alerts through a series of beeps.
She went on to tell me that with the help of that device and her husband [with whom she always scouts out a new mountain] she has hiked over 30 peaks in Arizona and finds great hope in the challenge. She anticipated one of my questions by stating “I bet you think it is really scary not to be able to see the edge of the cliff, huh?” I choked on my answer but finally got out a slight affirmation. She smiled. She said “You know, maybe I should be more scared, but I tell you what, I know these mountains better than most. I have traveled them many times and gotten to know them by touch, sound, and smell. I am not afraid of these mountains, I am afraid for the day when I can no longer share myself with them”.
She excused herself saying that she was on a tight schedule as her husband knows how long it usually takes her and might get worried if she was too far off the mark.
I thanked her for stopping to talk to me and wished her well. I took a different path once I reached the top and continued my way.
As I was walking back to my car, feeling tired in a muscle-exhaustion sort of way, I saw her again – doing pushups on the path down by the parking lot!
Just looking at her… The utter courage and dedication with which she lives her life – the knowledge that she would not have it any other way…I sat in my cold car wrapped in a blanket of inspired awe.
There are some moments in life that you will never fully understand. Then there are moments which compel you to understand many, many things and challenge you to better yourself in the process.
Today was one of those days.
This year, Mis[ter]fits, when you are contemplating your New Year’s Resolution, look past the cookie-cutter ones and think about simply resolving to go outside your comfort zone and be a more courageous version of yourself.
Until next time,
I would love to hear your resolutions. Simply post at the bottom in Comments, or email direct to firstname.lastname@example.org