Friday, June 3, 2011

Hello 42!

You've heard the question before, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" Or, "What are the first things you would you do if you won $700 million in the lottery?" Both are variations of the now popular "bucket list" idea. You know, where you make a list of all the things you want to do before you die?

I welcome the start of my 42nd year on this planet tomorrow. Birthdays always put me in a reflective mood - considering how I've grown in the past year, and who I want to be in the next year. The start of my 40s was filled with excited anticipation, and the prospect of being free to really dig into my "bucket list", which includes:
1. Live in NYC and/or Paris for at least six months
2. Learn to speak French
3. Successfully grow a giant pumpkin
4. Carve a giant jack-o-lantern
5. Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro
6. Provide some sort of service work (e.g. Peace Corps, NPS VIP Corps, etc.)
7. See as many of the US national parks as possible
8. Be a more diligent biker or kayaker
9. Do "the" road trip across the US
10. Water ski.

At first blush the last year has been a disappointing one because I haven't come substantively closer to achieving any of these things.

No one WANTS to be disappointed with themselves. Well, at least I don't. So I dug a little deeper. How would I characterize my 41st year?

One of the most significant changes is the evolving sense of peace I feel in my relationship with my mom. A light bulb was turned on and I realize that, while I am fundamentally different than she is, this doesn't preclude our having hundreds of ways we can appreciate and enjoy one another.

"Coming to peace with mom" isn't on my bucket list. But it probably should have been. Not only because being at peace with one's parents is a noble endeavor but also because, for me, the energy I put into my psychic wranglings with my mother (my childhood, my (mis)perceptions of my adult capacities) kept me from feeling the confidence I need to take bold steps towards achieving my goals.

I'm one year deeper into my life, and not outwardly any closer to crossing anything off my short list of aspirations. But inwardly, I'm ready for year 42 to begin.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

When I First Believed in God

I first believed in god after my initial glimpse of Yoesemite Valley from the road to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.

I was struck by the clarity with which I could see the power of glaciers that sheared off Half Dome, carved the valley to Mirror Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, and created water ways from the Sierras to locations like Vernal and Bridal Veil Falls. I know the geological mechanisms that continue to shape the topology of this National Park. I also felt the presence of something much larger than myself as I entered the park for a six-day car camping trip in 1999.

The last 24 hours in the Park I went backcountry camping through the the Wawona region, in the less traveled southern part of this national treasure. At the start of strenuous 8.2 mile hike, through endless switchbacks to the curvy Chilnualna Falls, I fell in love with the gorgeous ingenuity of the manzanita shrubs that covered the mountain side. At the end of the first day of hiking, tent pitched in a dry creek bed, I had the privilege of seeing the Northern lights, confused at first for white fuel-induced visions. The beauty of the earth and the sky, along with my own triumph at having accomplished the hike, only reinforced my sense of a power greater than that of any single species.


The blog post was written in response to call for stories about the National Parks. Share your story with the National Parks Conservation Association.

Photo credits to The Cachegetter.