by | Jun 19, 2020

Lake Placid, NY

I miss hiking in the mountains.  I’ve never climbed the kind of mountains where you need ropes and equipment—just the ones where a good pair of hiking boots will do.  I have a friend who climbed Mt. Everest last spring, the same season where five people died.  He passed some of the dead people on the way up the summit—something that I’ve never done on any of my vacations.  I am sure he thought of Everest as more than just a vacation.  In most cases, a vacation is where you try to relax more than you do in your regular life.  There is obviously nothing relaxing about seeing dead people as you’re climbing up a mountain and thinking you could die yourself.

One of the things I miss about the mountains is the attitude I have when I’m hiking.  I might even have a better hiking attitude than the one I have on flat land.  I don’t take any of the mountain’s challenges personally.  If it rains, I accept the rain; if it’s cold, I accept the cold.   I never question the weather or let myself feel like a victim of meteorological unfairness.  I just pack the necessary gear so I’m prepared for whatever the mountain throws my way.  I happen to love my gear—to the extent that you can love a thing.  I wish companies like The North Face could make gear to protect us from the coronavirus.  There is obviously no gear that can protect us from a virus or from racism—just as there is no gear that can protect us from cancer.

Racism is a cancer, harming both its victims and perpetrators.

Today I tried to think of our current crisis as a mountain so I would have a better attitude about it.  I decided to be on the lookout for beauty, since that is something I often do when I’m hiking.  I saw five goslings and their parents at a nearby pond and found them to be beautiful.  I stood and watched them for a while.  If you’re ever feeling stressed, watching a family of geese can help, because they can make you forget about some of the ugliness in the world.  I live near an urban park where there is constant blend of beauty and ugliness in the form of geese, gardens, cranes, hawks, drug addicts, and homelessness.  I’m thinking they should call it the Microcosm of Life Park.  The park has a band shell where The Grateful Dead played in 1967.  I look forward to some more concerts next summer when the virus hopefully finishes up its painful story.

In the meantime, I will try to keep hiking up this pandemic mountain with as much joy as possible.  Nobody ever expects a mountain climb to be easy.  When a trail feels hard, a hiker doesn’t automatically assume that something is wrong.  People are drawn to mountains because they are challenging.  These times are definitely challenging, but I trust we can learn something important from them as individuals and a transforming society.

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