The Hiking Dialogues
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” — Greg Child
Although I spend copious amounts of time and energy hiking, creating New Hampshire landscape photographs and writing reflectively about the mountains, I fully admit that there is a conversation of an entirely different magnitude going on around the world. The media refuses to let us ignore the plight of the economy, of wars, and of disease. But by and large, I submit that something dramatic happens to our perspective when we make our way into the woods and when we plod upward onto mountaintops. Something that is a part of us, let’s call it the minutia for lack of a better word, gets stripped away clean, allowing something far more essential from within to eventually surface. There is no clear transition, or verifiable “point” at which this happens, but more or less it is gradually brought on; by fresh air, by the labor of an uphill climb, and perhaps by the very nature of simple surroundings.
The mind wanders, though this drifting is not at all aimless, and an internal dialogue manifests that at times leads to profound benchmarks in our lives. In the company of others, these conversations might unfold aloud and you may find yourself talking about politics, love, or even about God(s). These are exchanges that could never happen in quite the same way under fluorescent lights, within the cubicle cages, or at a summertime barbecue.
Furthermore, when you find occasion to pause, perhaps at a peaceful rivulet or on top of a ragged precipice, and really take a good look around once the mind has been stripped of the minutia, a true sense of our smallness and our insignificance sets in; or perhaps it’s that the universe is simply incredible, and immense beyond comprehension. Whichever way you look at it, you come to realize that although you may be but only a brushstroke in the fresco, life is at once incredible, and incredibly complex. In large part the complexities arise because of the meaning that we add to the existing physical world. It is at this point that the hiker’s dialogue proves to be important; just as much so as other, more ubiquitous conversations. I know that it seems tough to resolve worldly matters and the discourse of a couple of sweaty hikers as being similarly important; but it’s easy if you try. By and large, this reflection, this reflexivity, this resolution…is part of what makes us human.
While hiking and camping out near Ethan Pond with a good friend this weekend, I was again privy to the treasure of this hiking dialogue. As is always the case, it seems that I’ve come out of the woods knowing a little something more about myself, my friend, and life. Furthermore, I have concluded that if this aspect of hiking is ever lost on me, I will have reached a truly unfavorable point in my life.
As always, thank you for joining me; do take care, and as colder weather begins to set in we’ll be sure to see you again soon.