This post is a long time coming! Of course, there are many reasons for such a long interval between posts…a busy year, life transitions, etc. And while all of that is true, it really just comes back to an undercurrent of Fear that I’ve recently began to observe in myself. I’m pretty sure its been there all along, slinking along the sheltered recesses of consciousness, out of sight, out of mind, adding its commentary to the ongoing narrative, and ultimately having an influence on decisions and outcomes. “Surely no one wants to hear about the Chanterelle Trail (or anything else for that matter),” Fear whispered to the Walk Blogger.
This past summer, I transitioned from a busy 24/7 teaching position to a part-time shop girl job. Talk about Fear! But the image of unloading a mountain of responsibility for a simple, quiet, inward year of self-reflection and artistic exploration could not, would not, be dampened by Fear’s insidious methods. This professional “pause” is my 60th birthday gift to myself and what I’ve come to realize is that the real gift has been the space to reestablish a relationship to time, that construct that maintains order in our lives…sometimes at a cost.
Don’t get me wrong though. I have been a fast-pace junkie. I perform better, think better, and possibly feel better when cramming 30 hours into 24. You too?! Lucky for me, my teaching position provided an organic moment to come up for air and upon reaching the surface, I wasn’t just breathing, I was gulping.
So where does Fear fit into this narrative (or the Chanterelle Trail, for that matter)? I’ll get to that, I promise.
One of the benefits of increased “free time” is the opportunity to observe and reflect on oneself. Through this reflection, I have become aware of the ways in which Fear weaves itself into every day life. Some Fear is healthy Fear. “You should not walk alone on that trail under the freeway where the man was stabbed last month.” Thank you Fear. Duly noted. I wholeheartedly agree.
On the other hand, the Fear that no one would want to read a blog about The Chanterelle Trail, and possibly more accurately, one written by yours truly, is simply rubbish. So, after that long introduction, it was our first go at hiking The Chanterelle Trail that brought into clear focus the presence and effect of Fear.
One very rainy day, about a month ago, Aaron and I decided on a spontaneous hike up the 2.4 mile Chanterelle Trail, in Whatcom County’s Lake Whatcom Park. We donned full rain gear and set out at about three in the afternoon. For some reason, we did not expect a fairly rigorous ascent in the wilderness. I think the word “Park” fooled us into believing that this would be akin to walking in Whatcom Falls Park or similar. Anyway, as this was a spontaneous walk through a “park,” we totally abandoned all the rules of setting out into the rainy wilderness late in the day and didn’t bring water, snacks, headlamps, or first aide. Nothing.
The Chanterelle Trail ascends fairly dramatically for the first quarter mile or so and then levels off to a more gradual ascent for the remainder of the hike to the lookout and turn around point. As we ascended on this rainy day, the deep dark woods slowly became deeper and darker. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves was amplified by the cover of clouds, which hung in the trees creating an eerie landscape of limited visibility and unsettling noises. Needless to say, Fear was having a heyday with my imagination and before long, I was convinced the woods were full of bears and/or cougars. In my defense, there have been many sightings of bears and cougars in the area and knowing this did not help. I was sure that with every step forward, the odds of encountering a large carnivore became greater and greater. We were about 1/2 mile from the lookout when up ahead came a loud crashing noise through the forest. Well, that’s all it took. I turned around and ran down the trail…so fast in fact that I couldn’t hear Aaron calling to me that a large branch had broken and fallen, making the crashing sound. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I was so hijacked with Fear that the only antidote at that point was the comfort of knowing we were heading towards the safety of the truck and home. On the ride home, we decided we would return on a sunny morning with water and snacks, which we did about three weeks later!
The Chanterelle Trail is a great hike for getting the heart and lungs pumping and offers an amazing view of Lake Whatcom, Bellingham Bay, and the San Juan Islands. It is 4.8 miles round trip, with 1000 feet of elevation gain to the lookout point. When we returned, the leaves were half off the trees, allowing for peek-a-boo views of Lake Whatcom.
Our second hike was successful! We sat at the top for a while, eating our bananas, drinking our water, soaking in the stunning views without a trace of the Fear that so punctuated our last attempt. I’ve thought about that Fearful day many times since then. There may have been a bear or cougar nearby. My Fear may have been spot on. I’ll never know. But what I do know is that all one has to do is turn on the TV or radio or open the newspaper to totally justify a heightened sense a Fear in our lives. I had just begun to write this post earlier in the week before going to a yoga class with Amy at 3 Oms Yoga in Bellingham. It was election day and Amy talked about Fear in her opening words, which was incredible given that I had just been writing, quite candidly, about my experience with Fear. One thing she said resonated with me and helped me bring balance to this experience. She said, and I paraphrase, Fear does not define us. It is not who we are. It is an experience we are having and because we can look it at it objectively, talk to it, and ask it questions, we are able to discover what Fear is trying to tell us about ourselves and the world. Somewhere I knew this but it was good to have it offered in this way. Amy’s words brought normalcy and a sense of wholeness and unity to the experience. I was no longer alone in my Fear.
If you’ve read to here, thank you! I usually don’t share such personal reflections and thoughts in my posts. I wonder what insights our next walk will offer! Stay tuned!