I’ve got an issue with that “Let Go or Be Dragged” quote. It’s misleading. It insinuates that one needs to let go once. Process over.
Not quite true. At all.
Mr. Triathlete and I had plans to hike Mt. Tam on Monday. I hoped we’d cap the hike by staying to watch the full moon rise over the mountain, if the fog permitted us a view. But his clients derailed that encounter. With our difficulty of making and keeping a date you’d think we were both Heads of State.
I almost bailed on the mountain, knowing a swim would suffice and much writing needed to be done, but time on the earth in Stinson on the night of a full moon won out. Six hours on the mountain would help to steady me as I walk on without holding the rope, and The Book needed an extended brainstorming session with Nature.
Swimming is for busting out stress, stretching my body and quieting my mind. The focus is on my breathing and my stroke as I float into a meditative state while pushing through the water. Hiking is for pondering and creating; turning things over and over until they’ve been seen from all sides, their lessons learned, gems discovered. Those lessons and gems turn into words as I climb and wind and descend. After a swim I am energized, my mind rested but sharp, my spirit revved. After a distance hike, I am content, relaxed, my legs are lean and worked and spent, my mind clear of clutter and blissed out, ready to create.
But getting to that point on a hike is like a chick fight at 2AM outside a South Beach hotspot.
On the forested first rises of the Matt Davis trail, where it winds through the woods, around boulders and over bridges that cross rocky streams tumbling to the sea, my mind floods with chatter. While I psych myself up to have a-ha moments and epiphanies, my quads burn from switchbacks broken up by stairs made of wood and rocks. Those first two miles are a real tuchus tamer.
About a half mile in, when I hit a rare tepid spot for cell service, I received a text from The Genius regarding costume issues. Somehow, within six sentences of back and forth it became another round of he said/she said. I slid the phone in my pocket.
I can let go, but he’s not going anywhere.
Pausing at the base of Table Rock, I literally shook my head in an effort to rattle out the thoughts and line-in-the-sand comments, fantasy conversations…all the chatter bouncing around. Let Go!
They quieted like children gathering on the rug for circle time after eating a pound of gummy bears.
Ten steps later they were at it again. I forced myself to get back to The Book. Pausing at the top of Table Rock for water, a beautiful and very romantic outcropping with a private view of Stinson and the sea when not bathed in fog, I had a nice little chat with the tenant who had sublet the space between my ears.
Turn it off!
It’s not a big deal. Let it go!
The sounds of squirrels barking like out-of-breath baby Chihuahuas as they directed harvesting efforts throughout the forest could finally penetrate my ears. I found one perched on a branch covered in wispy green moss, his tail twice as wide as his well-fed body. His bark twice as loud as any other. He let out three commands and then turned to leap down ten feet to the branch of another tree. When he landed he squeaked. Not much is cuter than that. I laughed and then applauded his final feat – a six foot leap to the trunk of another tree and a fast scamper up to his nest. I was jealous of his confidence and his grip. How, with the tiniest of paws, he can grab and release and spring from limb to limb with zero hesitation.
Other squirrels ran along the forest floor gathering nuts and playing around the base of Douglas Fir trees and hiding in laurel. They tumbled as they gathered, and paused to sit up and see who was where, doing what. They were a squad on a mission and determined to have fun doing it.
A couple deep breaths later and I was back on the ascent. Slowly the chatter would begin and I’d shake it off, literally. Finally it faded when I said out loud, None of this is a big deal anymore, Cleo. It’s just stuff you have to work through. Stay focused.
Instead of pushing to the top, I stopped short at the West Point Inn. It took a few moments to let go of the desire to summit, but the urge to sit still left no question as to what was needed.
There’s a lot of letting go going on. Call me naive, but I keep reflecting back on that image of the water spray as the boat speeds away and my water ski turns into a paddle board which I mount effortlessly and stroke my way towards the setting sun.
It’s Let Go or Be Dragged, not Let Go Often, Hourly Even, Or Be Dragged.
I climbed atop the middle picnic table, the one with the most dead on view of the bay. The fog was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, but she was still visible; the ocean hadn’t come out from underneath its cover all day. Facing east I got into a plank and held on for two minutes. The palms of my hands burned. The physical manifestation of one too many attempts to grab the last foot of rope before sliding off.
I must have let go a dozen times in the last two hours alone. It’s exhausting.
But not nearly as exhausting as holding on.
With the clock nearing 3:30, I wrapped up my quiet time by being light-hearted. I followed the squirrels’ lead. Sure, there’s lots to do. And some of it has the potential to be emotionally agitating or unsettling, but if I do nothing more than chill out, releasing my clutch on whatever new rope is in my hands as I Jane my way through this jungle, I will temper any flare up. And I’ll move forward with greater ease, the rope my assist, not my noose.
The quote does say Let Go or Be Dragged, not Don’t Grab At All.
Because I’m all about balance, a cocktail was warranted. A reward for stopping short of the summit and emerging from the trails before nightfall. I made quick work of the descent, enjoying each sighting of a squad of squirrels on a shopping spree. Hands down the most squirrels I’ve seen in one day. Over fifty, easily.
Clearly I needed to pay attention to their message.
I rolled my eyes at the potential spiritual connection. It’s fall. This is what squirrels do. If there were no squirrels then I’d have a sign. But this is just what happens in the woods in the fall. Nothing more, nothing less. Considering their presence in the forest remarkable is like considering it noteworthy to find fish in an aquarium. They’re not elusive like a bobcat, they aren’t quiet like a snake.
They’re there, they’re loud, they’re squirrels.
So, I’m to gather for lean times, remaining in balance by playing while I store up. Taking time to pause in the midst of the speed of a day and contemplate, as the squirrel often does after a leap and a scamper. Uh-huh. Got it. Same as last fall.
I stripped out of my hiking clothes in in the twilight and put on jeans and a sweater. It only takes five minutes for the heat of a hike to cool to a chill in the evening seaside air. I expected to find the Sand Dollar quiet on a Monday night, but the porch was full of people hiding behind green spider webs spun thickly around corn husks and other spooky accoutrement. Some friendly and familiar faces made me feel welcome as I approached the bar. Every seat was full. I turned to the football game on the TV in the front corner. The 49ers were making a mockery of the Cardinals.
Hey! Let’s put on a hockey game! Oh, we can’t. Bettman killed the season. Again. Stamps feet. Purses lips. (Sorry. I can’t let go of that one.)
I peeled my eyes away from the excitement on the screen and looked behind me to find the end seat at the bar vacant.
Moments after I sat down I got my first treat of the season.
And the squirrels had one final trick up their sleeve for me.