The Gift of Lameness

Hiking, for me, has always been end point and return driven. Whether strenuous climbs or long level trails, I was always on the way to something spectacular or to accomplish something. I have done as instructed by Nature enthusiasts; to stop along the way to take in the beauty on the trail, to snack and drink water, but my thoughts and attention were always swirling away to the peak, swimming in the alpine lake, finishing the loop. Even while stopping, my mind was calculating time and distance to the the endpoint and the amount of time left in the day to take care of stuff, once returning home.

Or the hike was something to talk about afterwards, on the way home or with folks in the days to come, or to say “Yeah, I did that hike.” as if I had just completed a job or a sexual conquest. I have images in my mind of many hikes, and pictures to prove I was there. I even have some feelings of awe that rise up in memory of standing in stillness, dwarfed by majesty. But, most of what I recall is about having completed them and very little about the way there or back.

There was one hike, a pretty strenuous 10 mile round trip, peak hike, that I embarked on during a time when I was experiencing a deep pressure in my right leg and a bit of a catch in my left lung when I exercised for more than 20 minutes. The hike was relatively level except for the last 1.5 miles which were steep switchbacks to the peak through a dense forest that opened out above the tree line for the last 200 yards of elevation.  For the first time in my experience, I found that I had to stop several times on the trail to catch a breath and ease my leg. Still I kept pushing through. I thought, if it gets too bad I’ll turn around. (Yeah, right!) I came to the final clearing and was breathing heavily, so I sat down in the shade to rest up for the final push. Rested, I began again and saw that the last stretch of switchback, that began about 100 yards away, was even more of an intense grade and seemed longer than what I had experienced up til then. I looked at the peak across this grass covered incline and thought that it would be easier to just trail blaze directly to the top. So, I went, at first upright, then lower to the earth, then slower until I was slothfully crawling, breathing hard, catch in the lung, leg throbbing. I kept pushing myself to a small copse of shrubs that would provide some shade near the peak where I could rest, eat and recover for the return hike.

By the time I was near the copse, I was dragging my body with the hope that I would reach the shade before lapsing into unconsciousness to die from exposure in the mountain sun.  Arriving in the cool, I collapsed and after sleeping on the crunchy, stone strewn, incline, I woke refreshed with most of the pain and pressure subsided. I sat for a while and contemplated dying on a mountain. What a great place to transition; 360 degree views obscured only by a taller near peak to the South, dense ocean of sky above, deep, moss-like forest below. And, maybe for the first time in my agenda driven hiking life, I sat in quiet absorption; taking in what I thought might be my last perceiving in this life.

Then the mind set in: “Better get going.” It was a slow descent with many stops and time to take in the surroundings. My mind, all the while, calculating the distance and time until I would be home to soak in a tub and spend time on the Net researching leg and lung pain.

After that hike, I soon learned that I had deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary endema. One of the larger veins in my right leg was mostly occluded from calf to hip with possibly small clots in the lung. Both situations can cause strokes, and death.

Hmmm… Would I remember that lesson? 


Three months ago while planning for this gratitude journey, I woke up with excruciating pain in my sacrum that radiated down to the ankle of my right leg. I could not stand or walk with out significant pain. Of course this trip was going to be a lot about hiking, scaling peaks and trekking deserts and forests that had offered teachings. I had imagined going on days long treks of 20 miles, scaling peaks or trudging through dense forests or striking out across the sands to get to those places that had shared teachings with me. Now after A very slow process of three months of care and therapy, I don’t have as much pain but my walking is hampered, and sometimes I have restless sleep from joint stiffness. My mind spinning out scenarios of how the trip would have to be different and how I would adjust or compromise or maybe even cancel.

I am writing this on the third morning of the Trial Run, leaning up against a moss covered hemlock friend that stands sentinel on the banks of the Hoh river, about 400 yards from my campsite. I had planned on a six mile hike up the river to a trail that winds through a forest of old growth moss giants. I made it to here, being forced to go slowly, seeing more deeply, absorbing the gifts of splendor that this place has. Its teaching orchestrated with river rocks playing the Hoh and the percussion of insects buzzing, accompanying a birdsong that I have never heard before supported by a chorus of my black feathered guides from the realm of KA. 

I have arrived, I am always arrived. There’s no place to go.

I wonder how long til I forget.

The Blessed Engineers

While riding the third ferry of the first day, I was taken by the brilliance of detail in the engineering of the ships. These massive, solid iron boxes floating on water and being propelled by thousands of uniquely engineered moving parts. With thousands of little efficient details and others that do not seem to have any clear purpose except to fulfill some designer’s whims, like big round holes in the girders supporting the decks.

I am equally (no… more!), taken by the engineering of the small metal box, appropriately named ELEMENT, that I will be living and traveling in, off and on over the next year or so. It seemed as if the intent of the engineer(s) was to make sure WIlliam Gentner had all of the nooks, crannies, hooks and crammies (places to cram things you don’t know where to put; in this case a new word made up so it would rhyme with crannies) that he needed on this voyage. It is clear to me that it must have been a crew of bright minds that had watched “Road Warrior” or a “Boy and His Dog” repeatedly and realized that they needed to make a vehicle that could withstand the apocalypse, be sturdy enough for the inevitable desert climes and gnarly roads, as well as providing a space big enough to sleep, eat, play and meditate in.

Engineers turn concepts into reality out of love. Their intentions and the consummations, even when they seem selfish, are ultimately acts of compassion. The engineer looks into the world and sees where there is struggle, suffering, or lack of ease and they take a designer’s dreams and make them a reality using their understanding of how things work and also how to make things safe and easeful. At their best they realize all the things in a dream or design that may cause suffering and transform the dream so it fulfills the loving intent of the dreamer. It seems to me to be one of the most egoless professions one can do. There are very few international, national or even local awards or public accolades for engineers. Sure, they make beaucoup $$, but I have never met one who is motivated by that when they are deep in the work of engineering

One might say that this magician’s skill for turning metal into miracles has brought as much harm as it has relieved suffering. But I do not think that is the engineer’s fault as much as it is the culture of greed and dominance that turns potentially life easing ideas into tools of destruction. There undoubtedly has been a great deal of ignorance of the effects of some engineering marvels, but at the outset the intentions have been, almost universally, manifestations of love for human beings and a desire to lessen suffering. 

And now, who will be the ones that ultimately create the tools to reverse the impending apocalypses and see unimaginable paths to prevent them…?

The Blessed Engineers.

Or at least they’ll keep improving on the ELEMENT, so that as many people as possible can ride out the coming storm with some ease and fun.

Trial Run

It seems like every day for the past three months has been a trial run for what is coming down the ‘pike. Each day brings another new pandemic of fear, courage, ignorance, awareness, intimacy and isolation. As I make final preparations for the trial run in the new home, I have been filling my days with purchases and what ifs? The purchases protect me from the what ifs? and the what ifs? protect me from settling into the nervousness that arises in the void of not knowing what is coming down the ‘pike.

I’ve been venturing out more into the world, coming out of my cave of COVID-convenient-isolation and I realize that I have forgotten how to navigate, dodge and weave, and shield my self from, the noise of civilization. There are body memories that initiate reactions of anger and frustration at traffic, avoidance of “individuals”, judgments of the impolite, and shame about my social faux pas. And I also notice that I have more tools for self observation and awareness, more capacity for patience, a broader sense of perceiving beauty, and some new skills that guide me to seeing beyond the habitual somatic responses to some kind of unified field of love, that pulls and goads, and initiates, and powers… everything.

A trial run for what?

In November I will jump in an Element that I have converted to a house and will begin a journey of gratitude. The idea forced its way into my thought stream about a year ago, when Jeff (my husband) made the final decision to move to Costa Rica (That is a great story in itself and I hope he will share that journey on here someday). As I started my own process for making the move to CR, I kept having images that sparked longings to connect with and kneel down, in gratitude before all of the teachers that have pointed the way, or shoved me off of cliffs, or sat in silent patience with me as I wrassled with my traumas, my attitudes, my arrogance and my egos. Gurus, lovers, canyons and mountains. Teachers, students, relatives, plant beings, oceans, deserts, both living and dead. As I write this they flood my memories and beingness and I weep with joy at this lucky, precious life that gifted me with them all.

And so on Sunday, July 26, 2020. I will go on a trial run, to work out some of the kinks of living and traveling in a 4X4X8 space before embarking into Gratitude.

(I’m new in the “blogosphere”, so any hints or ideas that will prevent this from being an obnoxious invasion of your inboxes, and yet remain an open forum for inquiry and exploration, shout ‘em out. Thanks!!! William)