Hiking, serious hiking, ascending mountains, a few thousand feet of vertical terrain, a pack on your shoulders, sweat steadily beading your brow, even at 8am in the morning, is an exercise of tolerance. How long can you withstand the burn in your legs, the ache in your lower back, the labor of your breathing? It does not take long, even for those in good shape, for the question to sneak to the very front of your consciousness: Is this worth it? After some pretty strenuous hikes this year, I say yes, it is worth it. It is precisely the difficulty that determines the worth and not, as we might expect, the views along or at the end of the hike. Surely, they are the icing on the cake. I do not mean to underscore the beauty and awesomeness of the natural landscapes this Earth offers. The few photos I have taken, unfortunately, do not do these marvels of nature justice. Instead, the sight of them has etched into my heart of hearts; that magical place within that generates lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes on both joyous and sorrowful occasions. But it seems to me that it is the hike itself that generates the worth of the endeavor. We often use the metaphor of climbing mountains to describe the process of the overcoming difficulties or challenges in our lives. The thing is, climbing up an actual mountain is really hard. Sometimes it has felt more difficult than any other challenge I have faced in my life. And this tells me two things. I have either not actually faced a difficult challenge, for which I should feel fortunate. Or perhaps I have been avoiding facing challenges as difficult as climbing mountains. I have a sneaking suspicion it is a combination of both.
I am currently stopped over in the land of milk and honey. Well, a land that could be the land of milk and honey. Sonoma, California. They have dairy farms, thus the milk. And they have vineyards and wineries thus the honey. It is, in general, an agricultural hotbed in which several distinct microclimates exist within two adjoining valleys. The landscape itself surely must reminded the first Spanish explorers of home and it is not difficult to see how they thought of growing grapes here. It seems strange that my talk of challenges and difficulties has led me to this place. Trust me the incongruence does not escape me. But my first true challenge as an adult has fallen on my lap here. I have been offered a job that may lead somewhere I have never seriously entertained. Primarily because it involves risks that up until now I have not had the courage to face. I will disclose the details to you as they become more concrete and known to me, but for now know this. Alaska will have to wait. I need to check out what’s going on here.