*I don’t have my two photo’s to show–yet. Oh boy did I work on them. The effort, has been discouraging, self revealing, time consuming, and ultimately rewarding. Yet I have nothing to show! I am not giving up, just asking for an extension. Hopefully that gives more people time to try. In the meantime please go check out Samantha’s links to see her photo’s and give her some feedback. Here are some of my thoughts in relation to the experience:
I have spent the past week living life as close as I probably ever will–to a monk.
This is all by choice, and the use of the word monk is only to point you in the general direction of what I really mean, because I cannot think of another word to describe it. I know monks live life’s of solitude and thoughtfulness. They also shave their heads and have comfortable orange robes. I just went with the solitude and thoughtfulness.
I’ve still been a mom, but that is all. I haven’t chatted with friends or even hardly called family. I have written love letters to my husband, who is away, but haven’t done the wifely duties of cooking, dishes, or ironing. I cleaned the kitchen and the bathrooms, but that was kind of a zen dust experience.
Instead, I’ve gone on walks just to look at quirky houses. I’ve read books. I’ve sat in a child’s tent and made Fisher Price Little People talk. I’ve gone to the beach and watched sunsets while soaking like an olive at the bottom of a chilled Martini. I’ve sat on the beach for hours pushing sand into piles just to watch how fast the waves and a two year old can destroy evidence of any progress.
And I guess it was that–watching the sand being built up and knocked down, over, and over, that got me thinking of goals.
To best explain my sandy epiphany I want to share two of my favorite ME moments. If a genie ever gave me wishes I would wish to relive these moments. They seem so simple, but I am so attached to them.
The first involves the great peak Teewinot. It is the most dangerous peak in the Grand Teton Range. Often forgotten too, is its more fame seeking brother, The Grand Teton.
Teewinot and I bonded, along with my friends Amberlynn and Johannes, one of the summers between high school and college graduation. The friends I hiked with, will forever be some of my favorite people, possibly because they came on some of my favorite journeys. Or possibly it is because without them, I probably would have died.
To ascend Teewinot you have to either be crazy or experienced. My friend Johannes was both. The first third of the path was steep switch backs. We started after a full work day in the blazing heat. I remember, distinctly, wondering what had ever possessed me to succumb to my peripatetic tendencies and try to conquer this wretched mountain. I felt a short relief when we crossed our last switchback, but was instantly overwhelmed at what lay ahead. The mountain loomed on, gray, rocky, and there was no trail.
Repeat. There was no trail.
We were to boulder our way up the next two-thirds of the mountain. I wanted to puke I was so exhausted.
Kind chaps– we hoped to be of the experienced rather than the crazy kind–had left rock piles as signs pointing the way. One such rock pile nearly had me killed.
We had come to a place were tidy climbing boulders had been overcome by craggy outcroppings jutting out of the mountain face. I was nominated to climb first, since the crazy expert was going to keep a visual on the mountain to guide me up.
Note: I am a terrible rock climber.
I began. Hand over hand–foot into nooks. I thanked my flexibility and fleshy muscular legs. It was moments like that it paid to have inherited my Swiss grandmother’s “sturdy” thighs. When I was halfway to the top I froze. I couldn’t see anywhere to put my foot. “Uhhhh, some help here!” I cried.
Johannes was being unnaturally quiet. “Can you put your foot over in the hole?” he asked.
“Maybe if I had a 12 inch insole!” I cried back. (And I really, cried back). My arms were shaking, my legs were shaking, and I knew in an instant, that I could not go up or down. To make matters worse, it had become apparent that this rock was not leaning towards the mountain. It was leaning away. I was chicken-fighting gravity.
(I always imagine heaven at moments like this in life, and the lame excuse I will render to my Maker for why my life was cut short.)
So while I hung there, Johannes and Amberlynn found an alternative route, hung themselves from above the rock, and “Heave-Ho-ed” me up.
The adventure did not end there.
Ten minutes later we were standing in a glacier field. A expert group, was crossing towards us wearing grippy attachments to their shoes. “That looks like a good idea….” I trailed off. Johannes, the crazy expert, was already crossing. Amberlynn and I followed. Johannes made it safely. Amberlynn and I slipped at the same time and started our first and last sledless glacier luge.
Have you seen a glacier? This isn’t your grandma’s snowy backyard. It was the size of a football field and was one big Cookies and Cream Bar of rocks and old snow that ended very near my last suicide attempt.
We were both saved, by Johannes. It was moments like that that I was glad that Johannes inherited his grandmothers exceedingly long and lanky limbs. (Even if they came with really pointy elbows).
I did not want to proceed, but then again, I didn’t want to recross the glacier field to go home. So up we went.
Up and up and up.
The mountain never ended. I never got a second wind, I never had the proper attitude adjustment, but suddenly we were there.
A sharp sphere, detritus in comparison to the rocky towers all about us, was the peak to Teewinot. You could stand on all two feet of its citadel, but I chose not to. (Why risk balancing my life in the hands of gravity again!)
Instead I sunk my legs into a secure looking crevice and gnawed on an apple like it was an edible gold medal.
Chewing would keep me from crying.
Once I got to the seeds I stopped my emotional suffering and started instead to examine the sensations of the moment:
My eyes panned into Idaho. A bucolic valley protected by the ominous spires of jagged peaks. I twisted towards the direction we had come and saw Wyoming. I recognized great lakes that looked like puddles, and hills that I knew were mountains. I felt the wind, I felt the rock, I felt the dust, and I felt the freedom. I am struggling to explain it, but I knew myself the best in that moment– shoved into a crevice clinging to the top of the mountain with aching limbs and an emotional heart, but feeling the sweetest cocktail of exhaustion and victory that nature had ever mixed.
The view from the top always makes the climb worth it.
It was the same place, the same summer. This time I was alone.
The tourist season was waning, my friends had packed up their dorms and gone home, and I was hesitant to leave and start a different life. So I rode my bike from the hotel I worked at to a place called, “Chapel of the Sacred Heart.” The chapel is the size of a small bedroom, is wooden and simple with small pews and a large window. The real worship happens with that view.
I ditched my bike and hiked to a secluded spot intent to sit on the bank and meditate, but like occasionally happens to me in the quiet of nature, I was tempted beyond my control by the sparkling cool of the water and the secret seclusion.
So yes, I went skinny dipping. And yes, traffic was zooming above me completely unaware that I was having a much better vacation than they were.
Have you ever skinny dipped in a lake so large and cool, with the view of the sky and the mountains above you, in the perimeter, and reflecting back at you all at once?
Have you have been nature dipped in a fondue of water melted from a glacier then trickled into a recipe of rain, and fishes, and rocks, and mud?
Have you ever experienced yourself without your life accessories, without vulnerabilities, without fears, without expectations, and just felt the buoyancy of life and the freedom of the expanse?
In both instances, on the tip of Teewinot and in the drink of Jackson Lake, I allowed myself to feel small, but not overpowered. Both experiences remind me of goals:
1. Some goals are like climbing mountains:
There might not be a distinct and direct path to the top, we might fight perilously and almost loose our grip, we might feel as if the task and the perils rage on and on, but we know exactly when we get there–and nothing beats the view from the top.
2. Some goals are like skinny dipping:
You will be intimidated, even shy to try it. You will feel vulnerable, you may not see the point. If you allow yourself to get in and you think too logically you will wonder, “How long should I stay? what should I be feeling? what am I supposed to be learning?”
Stop. Just experience.
There is no self reflective view from the top. The view is above you, it is around you, it is reflecting back at you, and it is–ultimately, in you.
Some goals can’t be checked off, they aren’t a destination, there is no clear beginning and clear end. Some goals are doggy paddles forward, backstrokes back, diving down, sensing and experiences. These tactile, organic experiences take a different type of goal setting.
You can and should set mountain goals, but leave some time for some swimming goals.
*Photo courtesy of Jocilyn Corbridge
Lindsey Maughan is a mango enthusiast with a composite degree in modern and ballroom dance from BYU. She believes that when you read books you should take notes in the margins, that sandwiches taste better when cut on the diagonal, and that most mundane tasks can be improved upon with the right background music.
She lives with her tall, dark, and logical husband, and her almond eyed, airplane loving daughter in Hawaii. In April of this year they will welcome a second child, a boy, into the family. Both parents hope he will grow to love hiking, vacuuming, and Indian food.
Lindsey loves her jogging stroller, her ipod, good books, her journal, music, writing, dancing, cooking, yoga, and going on dates with her husband.
Thanks for this post Lindsey. I was feeling rather discouraged this morning over my MOUNTAIN goals that sometimes seem so steep to climb. I need to remember to swim sometimes and have goals like that too… if all we did was climb mountains we’d probably be exhausted. And besides… there’s nothing like a dip in a glacier lake at midnight in your birthday suit with a storm brewing all while sharing the experience with a bunch of Polish girls singing “I’m leav’in on a jet plane”! Not that I’ve ever done that of course…
Ya. You wouldn’t have done that…and I wouldn’t have been there–Don’t know anything about it.
But, I am glad that you liked it. (Not the skinny dipping of course, the article.)
So often we think of goals as “destinations.” I know I do. I am embarrassed to say that I have NEVER thought of NEVER checking a goal off. Maybe because I’ve been taught to write goals down, work towards them, accomplish them and then “check them off” and move on. BUT, as I think about it, I really do have a lot of goals that will never get their check mark. Not because I’m not working at them, but because they are never ending goals. (I hope that made sense….it has been a long day).
Thanks for another great post Lindsey.