I climb up the quickly ascending ridge, my legs and pulse calling out for stops along the way. I enjoy the opportunity of each stop to survey my surroundings. Most often the expansive views catch my attention, other times the tiny details draw me in.
The valley is covered in a slightly tattered blanket of snow. The recent weeks have been filled with a warming and cooling trend, a pattern that has compacted some of our snow, and all together freed some southern slopes, such as the one I was currently climbing. The warmth of the day eats away at the edge of the snow banks. The patches of open ground expanding quickly, but quietly. As if they are gently coaxing spring out of her slumber, being alert to not make too much noise as winter slowly drifts to sleep, lest he be roused in a moment of flurry before relinquishing his shift.
After many snow shoeing excursions, the novelty of walking on dirt is exciting, and freeing. I carry my snow shoes instead of wearing them. They become a somewhat useful walking/balancing stick as I traverse the steep hillside. I am watching the ground as I climb, and the smallest thing grabs my attention and halts me in my tracks. My snowshoes hold my weight as I lean forward to get a better look. There in front of me is a wee little red seedling, bursting forth from its seed. My heart flutters with excitement, and a smile spreads across my face. Indeed one of the first signs that spring is rousing. All in one moment the joy of life is playing itself out in front of me, and yet I am keenly aware that we will most likely have many more nights of very cold weather, which might just be the undoing of this little soul. The ebb and flow of life is so simply played out in nature.
There is no regret in nature. Everything is part of the greater rhythm. There is not life without death. And so I find myself cheering on this little seed. “Hang in there my little friend! Spring will be here in the blink of an eye.” Within one season these annual plants will live a life filled with beauty and passion. A whole lifetime, in just a blink of our own. And ours, less than a blink in the timeline of Earth.
I pause once more, this time to watch a herd of Mule Deer climbing the hill to my right. They move with ease up the slope, embodying the alertness of a prey animal, but the knowledge that their athleticism far exceeds mine. With keen awareness they sense me on many levels. No doubt they hear my heart, feel my breath, and can smell me miles away. It’s a funny thing, that within the evolution of human society, it has become an admirable trait to distance ones self from our animal nature as much as possible. This has separated us on many levels from the nature around us, and with that has deadened our senses on so many levels. As I moved from the realms of society, and explored nature through long distance hiking, I found senses that had been forgotten, starting to stir again. Thankfully I was raised in a household that nurtured my soul connection with nature more than many are allowed in our modern society, so perhaps I did not have as far of a leap to make. No matter how separated from nature we may have become, she will always be there to welcome us back into her womb to heal.
Cresting the hill I find myself standing before a bathtub sized boulder, a natural alter, looking out over the valley in silent contemplation of the passing of life. What had this rock witnessed sitting here in the time since it immerged from the dirt? Leaning my snowshoes up against it, I walk around and sit down in the middle of the rock. The Methow Valley is laid out before me, a spectacular scene.
The scale of the landscape embracing the valley has a remarkable way of dwarfing any human imprint. In this corner of the world, nature still commands the attention of all. While some still try to shelter themselves from the unknown forces that nature holds, those who live here can not help but become entangled with the soul of the land. This is why my soul has been called back here. Even the human development laced throughout the valley feels as if it is intertwined with nature.
My eyes float across the scene, the rawness of the mountains at the head of the valley, great jagged sentinels, always reminding us that we are held in the embrace of the North Cascade Mountains. Down the valley the jagged peaks become interspersed with tall rolling hills. An outcropping of rock here and there hinting at their one time grand status. The river below snaking through the heart of the valley, shedding its skin of deciduous trees along select stretches of wide valley floor.
It becomes clear from my post atop the hill, that there is no way that we can be separate from nature. Just like the images of earth from space, I get a greater view of my home. I can see that nature still permeates all things, especially in this magical place. Humans are simply one piece of a greater whole. I send out a prayer for the human race to remember what we are, and what we come from. With just a few changes we can start to heal ourselves, and our Earth together.