An Abundance of Trails
Boulder is known for its abundance of hiking trails—up into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, or further east for flatter terrain. Mount Sanitas, Shanahan Ridge and the Anne U. White trail are among my current favorites; and I’ve visited them even more often over the past year, with outdoor activities considered among the safest.
Some trails are loops. Some are out-and-back. Others—like the Mount Sanitas peak, ridge and valley area—offer options to weave and figure-eight among the main and subsidiary paths.
Perhaps it is my familiarity with these trails that, at least in part, accounts for the sense—more and more prominent in recent months—of nothing happening: of the hikes arising and dissolving within a space of absolute stillness.
It’s not that the phenomena are unchanging. The mossy rocks, the butterscotch scented pine trees, the blue or cloudy sky, the tumbling streams appear in all their variety, beautifully diverse, transforming moment-by-moment, never identical from hike to hike.
And, of course, the so-called inner terrain of thoughts, images, physical sensations and emotional energy also shift and change, both moment by moment and from one hike to the next.
Ripples, Expanding & Contracting
And yet the more prominent aspect of my experience is this sense of “nothing happening”—of observing the hike unfold and return, like ripples expanding outward from the point at which a small stone is dropped into the surface of a pond.
The impulse or intention to go on a hike is the small stone dropped onto the smooth surface, initiating a particular pattern of body-mind-world activity.
Yet as the ripples expand concentrically, they simultaneously contract, return to center: creating a kind of interference pattern that doesn’t immediately cancel appearances (trees, rocks, thoughts, and the space-time continuum that is their canvas) but renders them ephemeral, playful, evanescent.
And upon my return (i.e. the return of my body to the trailhead), I often feel as though I never actually left—like the hike didn’t actually happen. I’ve always been and always will be Here.
While still I enjoy these hikes—appreciate how they affect body and mind in mostly positive ways—there’s also sometimes the thought: “Why bother?”
Why bother to ripple outward, when already the outward-rippling is being canceled by the inward-rippling?
Or, to use a slightly different metaphor: What’s the point in using my finger to write a poem on the surface of water, when immediately the letters dissolve?
There’s the sense that I don’t actually need to do anything, ever again. And while this feeling has its roots in peace and contentment—wholly satisfied with this vibrant stillness and silence—there are also remnants of dis-ease and uncertainty, at the level of mind.
Perhaps not quite trusting this infinite comfort and ease?
But no—I actually do trust it, completely.
Perhaps the remnant of a longtime habit of “accomplishing things”?
This, I would say, is more likely.
Perhaps a fear of losing the juice of creative energy, of fully engaging the body-mind in a passionately fulfilling way?
But deeply I know: the body-mind will continue to function, for as long and in exactly the ways that I choose. (After all, I’m the creator and dispenser of all the pebbles.)
Anyway, not sure … so, I guess we’ll just see if the hikes continue, or not, tee-hee 🙂