I think I’ve mentioned here and there that I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a gorgeous place.
I’ve been trying to get out hiking, but it’s been rainy, we’ve been out of town, I’ve had migraines, blah blah blah. Anyway. I finally got out this morning. Just me and my dog.
Hiking just does magical things for my brain. Many of my favorite ideas have come while I was walking, either meandering the neighborhood with both dogs or hiking with just one. My idea for LuLo came while I was walking back to the car from a gymnastics meet. Cop Drama visits this same hike.
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. — Pablo Picasso
I don’t know if I’d call hiking work, per se, but it is definitely prep for it. Although so much of the work of writing is in my head, that maybe I would call it working. Ha. I don’t know if that makes me more or less motivated to get up out of bed before the crack of dawn. 😀 Does that mean I can write my hiking shoes off on my taxes?
But, these moments of solitude. My precious, precious solitude. I’m not listening for the Entropy Machine to embody the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I’m not listening for the Mister to not be able to find his phone. My internal self is given free rein and my external self is soaking in the majesty that is the Wasatch Front (and watching for mountain lions and bobcats and coyotes and rattlesnakes).
Like, how does that not fill you with awe and wonder and Kant’s ideas about the sublime? You can just make out the sounds of traffic from that bend in the trail. The city is spread out behind me in this shot, but the sun over the mountains and the sky and the clouds and just, oh. There aren’t enough words to describe it. Or, perhaps there are, but I’m just so blown away from the wonder of it that I can’t find them.
I don’t think I can call this work, though. I think that misses the point. I don’t go off trail. I don’t take shortcuts. Yeah, I’m an environmentalist and know those kinds of shenanigans cause erosion and damage what I’m there to see and experience, but, the getting there is half the pleasure. I’m in my precious little quiet zone. I’m not going to hurry and get back to the crazy world of raising a toddler. I’m also totally out of shape and pushing up the hill would kill me.
Like, I’m as much into productivity hacks as the next metaphorical guy, but going hiking just so I can have some good words to write misses the point (as I sit here writing words about writing words about going hiking). I am not living to write. And I’m not writing to live either (ha, as I’ve so far made zero dollars at my wordmonkeying). I don’t feel you have to be defined that way. I mean, sure, I love writing, it feeds my soul. But I’m not a writer. I’m not a mother. I’m not a wife. All of those things are part of me, but I’m not going to limit myself to those labels and roles. I do all of those things and I love them, but that’s not who I am. My little secret me-ness that resides at the center of my soul and defies being labeled and reined in.
Anyway. I write because I have stories in my soul that I would want to read. Other people seem to enjoy them too. I hike because I enjoy the toil and the smell of sagebrush and coyote piss. I mother because I love my daughter and it fills my soul with goodness. I whatever-verb-you-want-to-use-for -to-wife my husband because I love and cherish him and love having a life with him. These roles are important to me, but they’re not the extent of me.
Maybe hiking is a good metaphor for this. It’s so easy to get bogged down in all the minutiae, the day to day mundane banalities of “Uh oh. Sounds like somebody has a case of the Mondays.” The trail is too sandy. Ew, spiderwebs. Someone left their bag of dog poop and forgot to pick it up again. You twist your ankle. Your new shoes are giving you a blister. You step in bobcat shit. The grasshoppers are trying to get it on and sound suspiciously like rattlesnakes and it is freaking you the fuck out.
You see some cool shit. You see a bunny on the trail. Your deplorable sight hound will probably not see it.
You’ll see some wildflowers. You’ll stop and take a picture and think, “Oh, I should play with some Instagram filters on this shit when I get home.”
And you might get tired and hungry and give up halfway there. You’ll think, “This is enough for me. What else can there be? Maybe I can just watch Game of Thrones instead. This is too much work.”
And you turn back before you get there. I’ve seen enough. I’ve done enough. Being a wife and mother is enough. Being a writer is enough. But goddamn, what are you doing for the you-ness in your heart of hearts?
And unless you keep going, you are going to miss out on so much. Unless you fight and dig and hold on to that little space, that you-ness, you’ll miss out on the view. You’ll miss out on finding yourself.
And I know I’m speaking from a place of enormous privilege. I’m a middle class white lady with the freedom and ability to leave her husband and child asleep in their beds and walk up a gorgeous mountain with little a purebred dog, but, still, I think there must be a way to find and hold on to this wonder and keep a little space for the me-ness. To quote film Samwise Gamgee, “There are some things in the world with fighting for.” This space for ourselves I think is one of them.
Now that I am at the end of this long, rambling ramble, I think this is just about right. The time and work to find and keep yourself. To not have your last baby go to college then go, “Now, who the fuck have I become?” I don’t want to wait to find myself. I don’t want to wait to know myself and spend time with that little spark in my heart of hearts. I’m willing to fight up the hill, through coyote scat in my treads, spiderwebs across my face. There will be some great stuff along the way, but I know, that moment of perfect, quiet solitude will be worth it.