Destination or journey?

Two weeks ago we went to Yosemite National Park, mainly to see the waterfalls.  This year’s record snowfall has led to spectacular amounts of water crashing over the falls and roaring down the Merced River.  On Saturday we took the most popular hike at Yosemite, to Vernal Falls.

When we got to the footbridge where lots of people take photos and then turn around, my enthusiastic companions suggested we take the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal.  What we climbed through was not exactly mist — more like driving rain on steep rocky steps — but we made it.  Not wanting to descend the slippery stones, I told my husband and son I’d be returning the long way, down the gentle John Muir Trail.  They came along, but Micah (my fifteen-year-old) continued to tease me by squeezing water out of his Camelback whenever I was about to cross a rocky section, just so I could experience wet stones.

While walking down, I stepped aside not only for people to ascend narrow portions of the trail, but also for folks in a hurry.  In particular, I made way for some young people literally running down the trail.  They didn’t appear to be members of a cross country team – they were just racing to the bottom.  All along the way, I observed people hiking quickly up as well as down the path.

Although their speed could be attributed to youth or superior fitness, it struck me that a number of my fellow hikers were indeed in a rush.  They seemed to want to go up the trail as quickly as possible, tag in at the turnaround, then dash back down.  Only to wait in line for the shuttle bus?  I’m not sure.

The whole experience caused me to reflect on the idea of the destination versus the journey.  It seemed the people who were zooming past me on the trail were not merely in better cardio shape – in many cases, they were focused on arriving, rather than on traveling.  These were not the people pausing to take in views of distant Illilouette Falls, or to record video of birds in the trees, or to notice wildflowers beside the trail.  They also were not the ones accompanying older relatives or children, pointing out trickles of water from cracks in the rocks where they stopped to rest.

No, they had more in common with someone I might see back home, darting through freeway lanes, not noticing when she cuts another driver off because she’s intent on getting to her destination.  In fact, some reminded me of  people who careen through the grocery aisles while yacking on their cell phones, but become irritated when someone slows down their progress through the checkout lane.  While this characterization may be a bit harsh, it points out a sad truth: many of us are so driven to get to where we’re going, to reach our own goals, that we ignore or step over people in our way.  We miss out on interesting experiences, and we hurt others’ feelings.  For some of us, this happens occasionally.  For others, it’s how we operate.  [Read more…]

Unplugging, and facing the truth

Thank goodness, I’m back online.  Friday a story about the “National Day of Unplugging” came on my car radio.  You can read about “The Unplug Challenge” here .  Basically, you disconnect from your cell phone, email, text, Facebook, Twitter, etc. for a 24-hour period, to help you “slow down life in an increasingly hectic world.” Ironically, the Sabbath Manifesto folks created an app to help you disconnect.

Anyway, I decided to take the Unplug Challenge.  I spent Friday night sending emails, doing online “work” for my various volunteer jobs, and printing out documents from a class I’m taking online, so I could be productive even though “unplugged.”

I officially shut down my computer and turned off my cell phone and iPad at 8:30 pm.  With a little fear, but also self-satisfaction, I headed out to unwind in the hot tub.  While there I panicked, remembering a couple more messages I needed to send, plus the idea of putting a “vacation response” on my email — so people would know I hadn’t dropped off the face of the earth, merely unplugged from it.  I went in and booted up my computer, did these things and printed out Saturday’s calendar, since I wouldn’t have access to it on my phone or computer.  Much calmer, I officially began my Sabbath from the Internet at 9:30 pm.  [Read more…]