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|Stopping for Joshua Bell - Page 12|
Slowly and almost silently, we walked three hours back to the trailhead. There we found someone to photograph us. Tired and hot, we limped to the car in a faraway parking lot. My knee had swollen to the size of a grapefruit, and Jan had blisters on her feet. We were thirsty and achy, yet so jubilant that we stayed in a happiness trance all the way across misty Berthoud Pass and into Copper Mountain.
That wilderness hike was orchestrated for awe, the universal elixir for healing. Always I am transformed by a venture into the great green heart of the world. Cue up the forests, waterfalls, physical exertion and freedom from time. Add in a few marmots, cascades of wildflowers, a red fox, a grove of quaking aspen and a nest of baby ouzels. Beautiful moments are bound to happen.
When I was younger, I thought such experiences were about perfection, the hike without scratches, the sky without clouds, but now I see that mythic days require the swollen knee, the blistered feet, the early afternoon cloudburst and even a little fear. The mountain lion tracks enhance the beauty of the columbine. Embedded in the concept of mythic is the concept of overcoming, of pushing beyond ordinary limits. Awe is the aspen curling upward from a cup of soil in the rock; it is the pasqueflower nodding in the snow.
Pain, as well as beauty, is necessary to give us perspective. We can place our suffering against the backdrop of time and allow our nagging little egos to rest in the great verdant container of the timeless. We feel smaller, yet connected to something bigger and grander.
When I return to Lincoln, I tell my grandchildren about the trip. Since they don't know what a waterfall looks like, I describe the mother-of-pearl spray, the icy water and the roar of water falling over boulders bigger than their church. They grow wide-eyed at imagined waterfalls. I explain about the ouzel fishing in the falls and her spaceship-shaped mud nest high up on the cliff, higher even than the roof of their church. I tell them about the chicks' orange beaks and their peeps that can be heard over the sounds of the falls. I describe how they impatiently pulled the silver fish from their mother's mouth. Then I present them with rocks I carried down from that site. Aidan clutches his to his chest, runs to his dad and says in a hushed voice, "Dad, I have here in my hands a rock from a waterfall with an ouzel."