The sun bounced off the water reflecting back into my eyes causing me to squint and look away but for a moment. A light breeze blew from the west rustling the leaves in the tree above me that provided much-needed shade on a hot humid day. I set my pack down on the ground next to a fallen tree and accepted it’s invitation to have a seat. The sky was clear and bright blue and a hawk circled above looking for his prey. A tasty morsel of a small rodent was most certainly in his sites as he swooped down behind a clump of trees. After losing sight of him my attention was turned to a large fish that had just jumped from the lake into a full somersault and disappeared into the dark water.
Four miles of trail was behind me and the heat and humidity of the summer day had sapped my energy and drained me in the form of sweat that had run down my back soaking my shirt. I reached into my pack, grabbed my water bottle, and took a long and much-needed drink. It wasn’t cold but that didn’t matter. I was grateful as it soothed the back of my throat. As one more gulp was taken the breeze blew again and hit my sweat-soaked back. A sudden sensation of coolness swept over me. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and savored the moment. Stability began to return to my fatigued legs. My heart rate began to lower and heavy breathing was replaced with deep calming breaths.
A short distance away a mountain spring poured into the lakeside. Heavy rains from the previous days had filled natural wells to capacity. I could hear the cold water as it splashed and churned against the rocks. The sounds were soothing, a natural white noise without the use of technology. On the horizon, I watched a lone kayaker paddle without a purpose across the lake. He was in no rush as he glided across the surface and I wondered if he had the same intention as I. To simply be. He soon disappeared behind the shoreline of towering oaks and hemlocks. And once again I was alone with only the company of nature and whatever wildlife was nearby that had not made itself known to me.
A dead fallen tree makes for a great seat for any weary hiker seeking to rest for a moment. I had four more miles to go in my adventure and I was in no rush to get back. I slid my tired body off the log and onto the ground. Using the deadfall as a backrest I was able to give my muscles added relief before moving on. The surrounding ground was mostly sand and peddles. A small beach created by rain wash and the lake rising from time to time. I leaned my head back against the log and allowed my neck muscles to stretch as my hands felt the cool sand and pebbles sift between my fingers. The sun hit my face as another breeze blew. It’s funny how one minute I can be cursing the sun for its fatigue generating heat and the next to allow it to bath my face like a warm cloth and welcome its soothing powers.
Nature is funny that way. I can curse it one minute and praise it the next. It can destroy lives in a blink of an eye, but also nurture and revitalize life. It can produce ugliness that will make me turn away, and create beauty that captivates my attention. It will beat me up and demand my respect but also soothe, heal and hold me close speaking in its own language that lets me know life is good.
While every part of me wanted to stay there in that moment, listen, watch and rest I knew it was time to get moving and head back. But I didn’t leave that spot thinking it was the end. I knew I’d be back again. The outdoors and being in nature is like that friend you just can’t stay away from for too long. It encourages and feeds your soul. It builds you up and motivates you to your dreams and goals. Sure, nature can let you down from time to time, but like a trusted and loyal friend you know you’ll get through the bad times. Today was not one of those days. My friend was exactly what I needed even if I did have to pay the price of heat, humidity, sweat, fatigue, and thirst. Because anything good and valuable to the human spirit is worth a little discomfort.