Monday, July 29, 2013

Being Myself

I had a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous weekend.

On Saturday, I drove a few hours to go on a hike far from the city, with the intent of avoiding alpine lakes with more people than wildlife.  (The weekend before, I hiked to a gorgeous lake, took off shorts and tanktop to go swimming in my bathing suit, and heard "Go for it, babe!" from a short distance away.  Not the communing with nature I had in mind.)  I found an interesting hike in my guidebook, loaded up my bag with water and trail mix, and hit the road.

At the trailhead, I made an interesting mistake - though "my" trail was clearly marked, I went quite the wrong way.  I was a few miles along before I realized that the lake I wanted to visit was off in another direction, and that instead of entering the forest, I was heading along the ridgeline.  I started to head down a side trail towards my intended lake destination - and found that I was completely, utterly alone.  I could see around me for miles and miles because I was up so high and the day was so pristine and clear, and I couldn't see a single sign of humanity.  Forests below, rocky ridge above, mountains in the distance, ocean behind me.  It was inspiring, magnificent....and terrifying.  The trail was steep and made of shale, so that sometimes my foot would knock the rocks and send them scurrying down into the valley, and I knew that if I slipped like that it would be a long time before anyone found me.  (Especially because nobody knew I was on this particular trail, having made a mistake at the trailhead!)

I felt so tiny, the world felt so big, that it took my breath away.

Everyone should get to experience that in their lives.  I am blessed.  Thank goodness for wrong turns.

But I'm also smart, so I turned around and went back to the main trail, where there were very few people, but I didn't run quite the same risk of disappearing from the planet.  I hiked to a beautiful outcropping of rocks....and met a handsome stranger.

"Darren" and I chatted the normal chat of two people at a spot in the trail together.  "Isn't it beautiful?" and "Where'd you hike from?" and "Have you seen any wildlife?" and that kind of thing.  Except that we kept talking, about all kinds of things.  We ended up hiking back together (it was my turn-around spot), and then he invited me back to his camp to have a glass of wine.  (A big public campground in a national park - not too scary, not too risky.)

I had a magical dinner there.  The food was nice although exceedingly simple - he cooked (while I watched!) a tofu and veggie stirfry with garlic and chili sauce, served over rice, with some not-terribly-expensive red wine on the side.  The setting was nothing short of gorgeous, beautiful trees all around, huckleberries and blueberries on the bushes, chipmunks chasing one another.  And the conversation flowed, from literature to travel to relationships, jumping easily from one topic to another and looping back.

I ended up staying later than intended, given the long ride home; at 9pm the sun hadn't quite set but I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the time, and scrambled to leave.

Five minutes down the road, my phone rang, and it was Darren.  "Come back and spend the night..."

I have to admit, I thought about it.  Only for a fraction of a second, but I did consider the possibility.  He was handsome and fit, bright and interesting.  Oh, and with an Australian accent - what's not to like about that?  Much better traveled than myself.  With sparks.  We hadn't even touched each other during the whole day, with the exception of a handshake upon meeting and a hug upon departing, so this was quite the leap.  I was pretty sure it would be a heck of a lot of fun if I did go back...

And I said no.  I said it with a smile, but I was clear.  I'm not that girl.  (Too bad.  It would have been a great deal of fun!)

The whole day, from beginning to end, was perfect.

That hike was magnificent. 

Being myself - truly, deeply, myself - and wearing hiking boots and a ponytail and being covered in dust in unflattering hiking shorts, but meeting a handsome man who saw my light and responded positively, well, that was a great joy.  I realized that all of my dates have been high heels sorts of events, and though I do know how to rock the heels, it's a small part of who I am.  Who I really am is a girl who hikes into the wilderness by herself, in a pair of big ugly clunky but very comfortable hiking boots, with SmartWool socks, and the ten essentials in her backpack.

The dinner will likely go down in history as one of my favorites, ever.

He and I have exchanged texts and emails.  We will not have a relationship - he's Australian, for pete's sake! - but I think I've gained a friend.  And perhaps he is as relieved as I am that I didn't take him up on his offer to do more.

Every day, I learn more about who I am and what I want.  This weekend was incredible, and I'm so glad for it.


Darren smiles with his entire being - his eyes sparkle when his face lights up.  We laughed over everything and nothing.  What a beautiful gift from the universe as I recover from the experience of Luke, remembering that though he wined and dined me, nothing we ate was as wonderful as that meal in the woods.  And there ARE men out there who share my joie de vivre.

Maybe next time I'll meet one who doesn't live in another country!  But Darren's gift wasn't about men, it was about remembering parts of myself, about being who I am, about knowing my own light.  He told me that he found my confidence attractive, and I thought, "Yes.  Yes, I am confident."

I've come a long way.

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