" Who knows the flower best? -the one who reads about it in a book, or the one who finds it wild on the mountainside?" -Alexandra David-Neel
I have always felt that my attentiveness is heightened when I am on a trail. I notice more, perhaps because I am less distracted. This held true on our recent vacation as my kids unanimously voted for the famous 'iron rung' hikes in Acadia National Park. This should not surprise me, it seems that every year our trips involve what I have fondly called, "white knuckling" aka holding on for dear life. Whether it is a cable car up a cliff face to an ancient Monastery in Spain, or a fire tower in South Dakota, my fear of heights is challenged, and I find myself literally grasping until my knuckles are actually white. Granted, I live by the belief that no one should be forced to do anything that scares them, so it is true that I could easily have rested safely on the ground while my family ventured on. But, the quote by Anne Lamott is also never far from my mind, "what if you wake up some day; and you're 65 or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn't go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you for got to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It's going to break your heart. Don't let this happen." I did not, and do not want to look back someday and think of the times I did not push past the fear to experience something amazing with the people I love. So, rather than a meandering forest trail, we set out on an iron rung hike last weekend. Two days in a row. And, they were both amazing. The kids look out for me, offering me a hand or an encouraging word. My darling husband rests his hand on the small of my back at just the right moment. We paused to breath deep and gaze in awe at the views out from our path. But, I also pause to gaze down to the little nooks and crannies on the path. And, it is there I am always shocked to find flowers. Some of you may know that last summer my husband and I climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji, and along that very difficult path, I found tiny white flowers blooming. It astounded me. How can these seemingly delicate beauties be thriving in the harsh conditions? And, on both iron rung hikes 500+ feet up in Maine, I found flowers. Drips of yellow, and purple and white that literally made me pause on a ladder to gasp (much to my husband's dismay, as he thought I slipped). And when I see them, I kneel in reverence, getting as close as I can to their tiny petals. Trying to not only soak in their beauty, but also their strength, because where the conditions appear harsh, challenging, and tough-they thrive. They are the true 'wild'flower in my eyes. Wild can mean things like unrestrained, and even crazy. I think it must take a little of this to grow your roots on a mountain. Might it have been easier for them to simply rest on the dirt safely at the bottom of the mountain? Perhaps, but they did not get that choice, they simply and literally bloomed where they settled. And thrived, regardless of the challenge. I suppose this is why I climb to these crazy heights with my kids, I want them to see what it looks like to push past a fear, a challenging, harsh and tough situation-and thrive. I guess in the words of May Erlewine, "I want to be wild."