I have been visiting my daughter in the Seattle area for the past nine days. The weather, for the first week, was cold and soupy. Each morning when I opened the blinds, a heavy mist covered the courtyard behind her apartment, leaving the giant pines, red maples, and boxwoods ominously silhouetted. For me, the weather was less than ideal for getting out and about. Wherever I go, I like to walk, but prefer not to be cold or wet. The weatherman on the local news said a warmup was coming, so I waited, albeit impatiently. Nearby is a park I had visited during my visit two years ago, and I was eager to go there again to hike the trails.
Finally, God said, “Enough already, let the sunshine in!”
And so, it was, on the eighth day, I awoke to streaks of light dancing off the bedroom’s walls. I jumped out of bed excitedly, brushed my teeth, and started my day. As I had done all week, I opened the living room blinds and stared into the courtyard. The mist floated high above the pines, and the sun shimmered atop dewy blades of grass. I spent the morning responding to emails, answering and composing text messages, reading, and writing. Afterward, I shut down my computer, laced up my sneakers, and hit the road.
My adventure began with a two-mile trek, all uphill, to Forza, a boutique coffee shop. I’m somewhat out-of-shape, so, my muscles were screaming when I reached the top. I enjoyed a large coffee while reading in front of the fireplace. I stayed over an hour.
Next, I walked another mile down the road to Gyro Zone, where I had the best Greek gyro salad ever! My daughter and I had gone to the convenience store next to the restaurant when I first arrived, and I was curious about the food. I love a good salad, so it did not disappoint. I walked another mile before heading back to the apartment.
The ninth day was sunny and mild. My morning routine was interrupted by a disturbing text from my son. A situation I had long forgotten about remained unresolved. It would be one more thing I’d have to deal with upon my return to North Carolina. I admit it threw me for a loop. But, this was my last full day here, it was beautiful outside, and I was going to make the most of it, despite the sinking feeling I had in my gut.
I ventured over to Chamber Bay Park, fully prepared to hike the trails. When I arrived, the breathtaking vista at the park’s entrance left me awestruck. I sat on a bench along the Grandview trail, high atop a 200 ft bluff, staring through teary eyes into the canyon below. I was in my feelings, but it felt good. The heat of the sun felt good against my face. The passerby’s smiles felt good. The thought that I was here, in this place, at this time, felt right.
I stared into the Puget Sound, emptied my mind, sat, and listened. I listened to a tree squirrel scurrying in the brush behind me. I heard a bee hum softly in the purple flowering shrub. I heard the faint call of a gull gliding beyond the shore. I listened while an Alaskan husky sniffed at my feet. I smiled.
“Here!” said the dog owner.
“My driver’s license expires today,” shared a woman to her walk mate.
“Have a nice day,” said the jogger as he raced by.
Then, after an hour of emptying my spirit, I heard the path say, “Follow me.”
I got up and walked the trail beside the undulating landscape, staring at the cypresses pointing high in the blue, cloudless sky. I followed the path past the lone fir tree on the golf course. I walked for three miles, past bridges and columns and crying babies. I marveled at the homes perched high on the Fox Island cliffs on the other side of the bay. “Are they happy over there?” I wondered. I strode past a woman with a cane, sitting on a bench with her face lowered into her hands. I thought to ask her if she was okay. Instead, I continued onward. I hiked until two trails converged into a loop, winding down, in and out of the lush woods, then up and up and up even more.
The problem that shook me earlier in the day somehow didn’t seem as menacing now. My spirit had acquiesced to what is, not what might be. My heart thumped purposefully with a song for my soul. And the path sang out again, “Follow me.” So, I walked with throbbing legs, led by a familiar something, not questioning, only listening.
My pace had slowed considerably. The inclines were relentless.
“You’re almost there,” said a young woman running up the hill. She must have sensed my labored steps.
So, I kept walking upwards, around bends and turns and past signs that said, “Keep off protected areas. Stay on the trail.” I lumbered past giggling mothers pushing strollers that held sleeping babies. I trudged past an elderly couple, holding hands, silent and unbothered.
“When does this end?” I wondered as I continued my ascent.
“It doesn’t,” answered the path. “Just stay the course.