Yesterday was a day for the mountains.
October came fast to Alaska, it’s the end of fall here, not the height. Especially up in the mountains where the winds and rains have already swept on through and knocked the bulk of leaves off the trees, turned the ground from the brilliant reds, marigolds and green of September, to russets and chestnuts and fawn.
I head up into the hills with my old dog, Sam. He’s a senior rescue, 13 lbs of sweetness, and built like a footstool with short stubby legs and a stout body that is capable of slow walks, though not much for climbing. I grab his special front pack, and tell him I’m packing him up today. Not only do I want his company, but he loves the outdoors, he just can’t get all the way up the mountain without an assist, so today I assist.
It’s slower to get to the top with Sam. He does a little on his own, before he turns around and starts heading back down the trail after realizing it’s much easier to go down than it is to come up, so from there on out I stick him in his pouch and carry him up through henna brush and tan tundra.
The top is always worth the effort. I can see Anchorage and the Inlet and Ship Creek Valley and South Fork Valley and how everything hooks up and is connected by the miles and miles of mountains and water around here. The wind is whipping and the sun is dancing in and out of thick heather clouds, and Sam is happily trotting along beside me, now that the hardest part is over.
There is not another soul around. Just Sam and I, I and Sam. We gaze out at at long stretches of ridge lines and peaks with views of blue and brown and turn of season. I pick a point, already sprinkled with a smattering of snow, well across the ridge and head in that direction. I have no agenda, just time and thoughts and mountains and Sam.
I think about my younger days, those transformative years where I was always losing myself in the mountains to go find myself. This Land carried me through a deconstruction and reconstruction of self eight years back, and I owe it a debt of gratitude for being there to support and carry me during a time where I was learning to support and carry myself.
The Mountains were my container. Letting me to come and go as I pleased. Holding and storing and allowing me to leave pieces of myself all over her craggy terrain. Keeping them safe in the depths of her wild heart until I was ready to retrieve my pieces, weep and love and break and examine and cry all over them, then find a way to integrate them into the depths of my own wild heart.
I consider how today is not those days. I have no pieces to leave in these hills. Nothing to lose or shed, other than a bit of the stress that has accumulated these past weeks. I am full and whole and I know.
I know who I am.
I know where I’m going.
And I know that it’s okay not to know.
That girl from my yesterdays, she didn’t know those things. But today she does. She’s tucked deep inside of me, part of my past, part of my present, part of my whole.
I pay homage to her by deciding to go long- that’s the sort of thing she would have done, stayed up there for hours among those ridges- so instead of turning back, I press on further. Let the wind whip my skin. Be in the moment. Smile at my white companion who is doggedly making his way along the ridges, having the time of his life.
I’ll miss you, I say out loud to the Land, as I think about our upcoming move and how different the terrain will be in Kauai. She answers back, reminding me that though the terrain will change, she is still the same Earth in the Green of Hawaii that supports my steps on these October Hills today.
I am Everywhere. I am All. She says.
Yes, I think, She is.
It will be different there, but the Land, the Water, the Jungle, the Mountains, they have new things to teach me. And I’m not going there to retrieve my pieces of self and find out who I am. I’m going there to retrieve something needed for my soul.
We stay up there for three hours Sam and I, I and Sam. Exploring, climbing, sitting on the rocks and watching the valleys below. Sometimes Sam walks, sometimes he gets carried. He looks so happy, and I think about how beautiful it is to be with this little being on this day in the spotless grace of this place.
As the evening gets closer it’s time to drop down. The sun is no longer about and has been covered by great swaths of gray that say rain is coming in the night. We slide a little on the slick trail and shiver as the winds begin to lash out a bit harder. The downhill is all mud and stream and auburn and birch, and I smile with bittersweet remembrance of September’s crush of emerald and ruby and blond.
It is October. And Winter will soon be coming. And the Leaves are dropping with a pristine courage I envy, for they know when to let go. And the Land is becoming sleepier preparing itself for November decay. And the Trees keep reaching on up reminding us to always move towards the Light. And the Sky is deepening in fond nuance of soft wheat and murky heliotrope and velvet rose. And I am Full and I am Whole and I Know. And I am Everywhere and I am All.
And I am Grateful for these gifts of day: Sam and I, I and Sam.