Saturday afternoon July 25th I made it to Mt. Rainer National Park after camping Friday night north and east of Portland along the Cowlitz River. I had debated going to the Olympia area for the weekend and jumpstarting Roy diagnostics first thing Monday morning, or, taking a Roy mechanical gamble to Mt Rainer. Run to the BIG mountain I did, ducking Roy’s idle stalling problem via country roads.
And was I that ever the right choice (even though I came into Olympia Monday for Roy anyway). What a beyond beautiful national park! A sweet campground afforded a rainy afternoon of napping, cooking, two bit hiking and bike cruising. Sunday was a long loop hike through (again!) mossy and ferny forest, climbing a lot, and finally leveled off into a stretch of wild blueberries. Grazing along, the pathway opened up and bam!, there I was face to face with (no not a bear) but Mt Rainer! So massively dramatic. For the few minutes Rainer was unshrouded I would look, then look away, look, look away. I was humbled, in awe. I’ve seen lots of big mountains (Sierra, Rockies), but nothing like this. The highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,410 and the most complex glacial system, Rainer is our largest mountain mass rising from close to sea level in a string of about sixteen volcanoes along the Cascade Range. Rainer’s west side gets about 90’’ of rain annually, and as much as 30 feet of snow pack. There’s a 93 mile Wonderland trail that skirts Rainer’s base with 23,000 feet in elevation change. Founded in 1899, Mt. Rainer National Park is our fifth national park and the first park with full master plan, setting high standards and a great template for subsequent national parks.
Today’s Skyline loop hike out of the Paradise Ranger Station started with broad, elegant, sweeping granite steps with a John Muir engraving “….the most luxuriant and most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain top wandering.” Hmmm…in starting the eight mile loop it was hard to imagine having my alpine garden socks blown off with Mt Rainer so ridiculously right there on a clear morning, but, I have to say, Muir nailed it. The hike up was amazing in getting so damn close to the edges of Rainer’s southeastern glacier fields. From the trail’s plateau, I could see a string of southern peaks — Mt. Adams, Castle Peak, Mt. Pinnacle Peak, Plummer Peak, and Mt. Hood. And, looping out, around, and down through the alpine meadows, was as Muir said, luxuriant and most extravagantly beautiful. The soft animal of my body was peaceful, joyful, happy.
After lunch I took the short (up, up, up) Pinnacle Peak trail due south of Rainer for a view into Oregon, and panoramic view of Rainer with accent clouds.
Throughout the day I turned over bits of my delightful Sunday morning campground conversation with Ranger Jeff. Sharing some of his discontent with working for the park service, general 55-year old life blasé, and his struggle to motivate further in positive life changes, Jeff said he was trying to be more disciplined, because, as he had heard, “Life involves pain, there is pain in regret, and pain in disciple”, so why not choose more disciple? “Well maybe so,” I said, adding singer/songwriter Beth Orton’s lyric “What’s the use of regret? It’s just lessons we haven’t learned yet.”
I could certainly write a book on the pain of discipline, having had it beaten into me from an early age of “you will suffer”. Through marriage, children, and work, I mastered discipline with pain, doing the best I could with my (then) abilities.
But does disciple have to be painful? Or, if discipline is painful, is this not a sign of resistance – a trying, pushing, too hard — swimming upstream? A two steps forward, one step (or more back) tango? Could I have accomplished more, been happier, by softening at least some of my edges? The teachings of Ester Abraham Hicks speaks to this a great deal. Thought manifests to form, positive attracts positive, negative, negative. Follow the path of least resistance. That does not mean to give up or to quit, but stay in good feeling states as much as possible and see what happens.
For many years, I have contemplated the following piece from Thomas Merton (1915-1968), drawing encouragment to approach my energy / utility work with more kindness and compassion. Not always easy particularly in my days as an expert witness under cross examination by utility attorneys with some of the tightest sphincters on the planet.
“There is a contemporary form of violence to which the idealist fighting for peace (or any other issue) by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender oneself to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that it is to cooperate in violence.
The frenzy of the activist neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of our inner wisdom, which makes all work fruitful.”
Also, this small excerpt from “Mothering”, by Thich Nhat Hanh, entitled “Being Peace”, has come to me again and again over the years to soften and turn the corners of my mouth upward.
“The peace movement harbors a lot of anger, hatred, frustration, and misunderstanding. Peace advocates can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter.
Can the peace movement talk in loving speech, showing the way for peace? I think that will depend on whether the people in the peace movement can be peace. Because without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. If you cannot smile, you cannot help other people smile. If you are not peaceful, then you cannot contribute to the peace movement.”
A couple of years ago I came to me that my energy /utility work is about deepening my practice of loving kindness and compassion. We are all in this together. We all want the same thing. For Ranger Jeff, I know he will extend the depth of his caring for Rainer to loving himself more and more.
“To your practice, and all is coming.” This is how Lynn, Yoga Shack owner/instructor, two decades ago, would end each class.
This went straight to my heart where so many times not knowning what was next, or how I might proceed, I would as with each breath, begin again.
“You should make yourself so happy, that by looking at you, other people become happy.” Yogi Bhajan.
And, so often is this not our greatest gift?