Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conquering mountains

Last night at about 9:30, Cim and I decided to hike Timpanogos this morning. We had tossed the idea around before that, but last night the decision was made, and accordingly, I showed up at Cim's house at 6 AM and after a little expedition to the grocery store, we were off on the Timpanookie trail head, which we concluded is much, much prettier than the Aspen Grove trailhead. For one thing, there are multiple rivulets and waterfalls that flow over the trail, which gives it something of a charming, refreshing air. We enjoyed ourselves quite a bit as we splashed over waterfalls, trod carefully across alluvial fans, and slipped through snowfields.

Although I grew up in Utah Valley, this is the first time that I summited Timpanogos. I attribute it mostly to my poor health as a teenager- there's no way I could have done such a steep hike back then. And I still carry something of a legacy from those days in the form of scar tissue in my feet and a searing pain behind my shoulder blades with every breath that occasionally pops out of nowhere but can often be associated with lots of heavy lifting and carrying, including backpacks. In fact, for a long time, I just couldn't carry anything on my back at all if I were going to be exerting myself, because the searing pain would start up almost as soon as I started breathing more heavily. I was seriously excited when I was able to carry my own backpack containing not much more than a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a swimsuit, for the full length of an overnight trek in Thailand a year and a half ago. That was real progress. And today is another exciting day in my book- I carried my own (light) pack to the top of Timp and back down again, including our unintentional detour when we got mixed up and went too high on a snowfield, slid down a piece of an alluvial fan, and somehow managed to get ourselves on the Aspen Grove trail instead of the Timpanookie trail. Fortunately we didn't get too far before we figured out that we were heading the wrong way and someone was able to point us in the right direction. I'm going to be sore tomorrow, but I really feel like this was almost a rite of passage. I subconsciously tie myself down to my past too often (who doesn't?) and forget that there's really nothing wrong with me now that some exercise and some good stretches can't take care of.

I was reminded today, oddly enough, of another long expedition I took about six years ago. Towards the end of my semester in Nauvoo, we all took a Saturday and walked from Nauvoo to Carthage, roughly 23 miles. Since we were in Illinois, the land was pretty flat, but since we were walking on back country roads, the cobbles in the road were huge rocks that hurt our feet and that you could easily turn an ankle on. The alternative was to walk on the side of the road, where the springtime mud was so thick and clayey that it quickly added inches to our respective heights. Meanwhile, we passed through the full spectrum of seasons during the course of the day as we went from sunshine to strong, strong wind to rain to snow to hail to more wind to more sun to more hail . . . something possessed me to keep walking.

Six years ago, I was much closer to all my teenage health problems than I am now. I still considered myself to be recovering from a long, unpleasant bout of candidas, which is essentially identical to chronic fatigue syndrome in its symptoms. My feet were just a couple of years past surgery and my arms seemed to be giving me more grief than they do now. I was honestly rather amazed that I had the stamina to walk 23 miles, let alone through wind and hail storms. But I did, and I think completing that walk was my first big step in banishing the demons of the past.

There are things in everyone's past that can hold them down and prevent them from moving forward if we let them, whether they be old grudges, stereotypes we were labeled with, even something like a lost love or the memory of a good season and the belief that such a good season will never occur again. But holding on to the past and allowing it to hold us captive, whether the past be good or bad, painful or pleasant, will effectively prevent us from moving forward and seeing what Heavenly Father has in store for us next, what He wants to teach us, and how He will requite us to learn and serve. The Gospel is a Gospel of forward motion, as Joseph Smith himself said, "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, Brethren, and on, on to victory!"

That's my goal. The past is there and it always will be. It is good to learn from it, but it is not good to tie oneself down to it so that no forward and onward motion can take place, no victory. Courage, Brethren! Always forward, never backward.


Stephen and Emily Stacey said...

I wish I could have been there with you. I miss you Maria.

Danielle said...

Way to go. I was also thinking of that walk just last week, when I was telling the Primary kids how unexpectedly tough it was! What a great time.

Jenny Kendall said...

Well done Maria!