I FELT AS THOUGH I was in my early twenties again as I charged along the trail, expanding my lungs and my horizons, feeling excited by each twist and turn, by everything that lay ahead: the night in camp, the quietness, the simplicity and adventure, and by the season – most of all by the season – the ease of it, the warmth, and the sheer invigorating aliveness of it.
Goodness, but I love summer!
I love waist-high grass, thick and lush, interwoven with wildflowers. I love warm air on bare skin, and long days, and lingering evening twilight, and birds filling the air with motion and song. I love green – shimmering in a thousand shades – and the quiet sun-dappled corners of the forest, and backlit leaves on deciduous trees, and pine needles tipped with reflected light. I love working up a cleansing sweat on a stiff climb followed by the cold shock of mountain water on a hot body. I love sitting in stillness and silence, staring outward, merging into the landscape with every sense… relaxing into it… unchallenged by inhospitable elements, at peace, but energized also – fully alive.
Of course, I love winter too – with a passion – and the glorious golden autumn, and the liberating renewal of spring. I love whatever season I’m in the midst of, but it is summer right now, and so for now I love summer most of all.
This weekend’s walk and camp felt like a celebration of summer, and of life. It was a simple set of miles uphill from my home town, along a rugged canyon, ending at a discrete leave-no-trace camp upon an elevated ridge. Growing up in London I spent years dreaming about being able to do what I just did: walk from home to camp in a wild spot. For years I imagined being able to reach a mountain camp with no travel time, with no gas burned, no pollution, by the power of my feet alone. And I dreamed of putting down roots, learning a place, becoming so familiar with it that I felt I belonged. I dreamed of a relationship with a place. An imagined love affair. An intimate connection. A fantasy, perhaps?
But who would guess that fantasies can come true?
Is it mere luck – the good fortune of the privileged? Or choices? Or sacrifices? Or a mixture of these, and other elements that I’m unaware of? Either way, the gratitude I feel is immense. I feel grateful that, out here, our dystopian world matters less, if it even matters at all.
The sunset was captivating. I sat and watched it, photographed it, watched it some more. As the ninety-degree day cooled and shadows lengthened the light took on a richness it had earlier lacked. Warm hues, billowing clouds, an insect chorus reaching a crescendo, a rogue thundercloud – grumbling darkly as it passed – and then twilight, with crepuscular rays reaching far overhead, banded fingers of shade.
What price such treasures?
The forest the next morning was enchanted, beyond beautiful. I breakfasted in stillness and peace, savoring both, and then walked away from camp as vigorously as I had walked to it, relishing the physicality of being alive. To the few morning walkers I passed I may have looked rushed. But I wasn’t. I was just living.
Heading home, I thought. Which was silly. I was home already.
But goodness do I love summer!