Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trail Magic

by Kelly

It was an impulse purchase, as most items are from Target...the ones that wind up in the basket that weren't originally on the list.  But as I passed by the electronics section towards the dedicated Halloween area, the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail caught my eye.  Probably because of the big 20% off sticker in the lower right-hand corner.  But nevertheless, because I was sure that I was probably the last person on Earth to read this popular, best-selling memoir, I decided to go ahead and put it in my cart.

If you are not familiar with it, Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Coast Trail.  The book chronicles her harrowing journey and the personal struggles that led up to her decision to hike the trail with no previous hiking experience or training. Throughout the book, the author describes, in vivid detail, the challenges of her experience on the trail...seemingly enduring one crisis after another.  But although Cheryl was traveling solo, she was rarely ever ‘alone’.  She was often haunted by painful memories of her past or accompanied by the physical challenges of crippling foot pain, severe hunger and thirst, and exhaustion.

As I followed along in the book with the author’s three-month hike from the Mojave Desert to the Washington border, I couldn't help but think that her story might also serve as a sort of allegory, conveying insights on this journey that we call life.  Fighting our way, step by step, up the cragged side of mountain or slogging through the muck and mud.  Glorious days where the trail feels like a wide, flat, expanse of wildflowers only to be followed by days of endless, cold rain.  I can certainly relate to these real-life trail circumstances when viewed as metaphors for the ups and downs of my human experience.

At one point on the trail, almost to the Oregon border with about 300 miles left to hike, Cheryl stopped for the day to make camp.  It was late afternoon and she was eating a fresh peach – one that was left for her by a pair of hikers who had passed through that spot earlier in the day.  While enjoying the shade and nice place to rest, she was taking of notice of her surroundings…appreciating both the beauty of her physical location and the kindness of hikers’ gift.  And in this moment of gratitude, she reflected upon her journey thus far…remarking that not a day went by when she didn’t experience some sort of trail magic.
“As difficult and maddening as the trail could be, there was hardly ever a day that passed that didn’t offer up some form of what was called trail magic in the PCT vernacular -  the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail.”
The minute I read this, I reached into my night side table and grabbed a pen.  Then I underlined and outlined this entire passage in the book.

Trail Magic.  

These words have been the music playing in the back of my mind for the past week or so. Probably because they sort of echo my own creative vision – to find the joy and magic in my ordinary life.  And as we embark on the month that has been traditionally set aside for thankfulness, I have decided to let this notion act as a sort of lens through which I will see my practice of gratitude.  From the surprise of a rose blooming in late October to the delight of a beautiful Monarch butterfly in my own backyard, this month I hope to focusing on the the gifts and blessings – “the unexpected and sweet happenings” – that offer welcome relief in what can often be a difficult and challenging journey.

November is gratitude month for us here at Focusing on Life as well and we would love to hear from you!  Please share with us your experiences in the practice of gratitude.  Or how you plan to approach it this year.  As always, we are so grateful to you for being part of our community.  Thank you for sharing your lives and your art with all of us.

Until next time,



Focusing on Life said...

Wonderful post, Kelly. How much better we'd all be if we would only look for the good in each day. Sometimes amid lives troubles it may only be a moment, but it's there, we just need to be looking and be ready to receive it.

Carol said...

Wonderful book -and it had the same effect on me. Cheryl Strayed's podcast is also good.
Looking out the window right now I have a beautiful fall day awaiting me. You have inspired a hike🤗

terriporter said...

If Cheryl Strayed could find "trail magic" during her long hike on the Pacific Trail, then we all should be able to find it in our everyday lives. And as we all say here time and again, you have to look for it in order to find it. This month is the perfect time to get into the habit of gratitude and of looking for the magic in our lives. Your photos are beautiful and your words an inspiration!

Barb said...

Finding magic in the ordinary is something I also try to do. Your photos convey that sense of discovery.

Dotti said...

What good everyday advice for all of us. Yes, the hard times come but through it all we really still have so much to be grateful for. Too often, we just fail to take notice, to be present in the moment. November, aka Gratitude Month, is a splendid opportunity for all of us the sharpen our skills and inhale to joys of everyday life.

Rhadonda Sedgwick said...

What a beautiful read Kelly! A great reminder to look for the magic in every day and to be thankful. I am going to record thankfulness this month as I continue with my daily photo project, which actually the November prompts are all about thankful. Thank YOU for sharing!

heyjudephotography said...

"The unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out." Yes, I love that! You are the master of capturing the unexpected and sweet moments of the every day. Thank you for the reminder to do that - I will be looking for the "trail magic" today and every day.

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