We crawl our way over slippery, wet logs. Every few minutes, the trail disappears and we stop and look, up and down and around. We keep heading downhill but eventually, we have to cross the raging creek that plunges over boulders and into big pools. We hem and haw over different ways to go. Finally, there is a log stemming the creek. Cameron offers to go first and shimmy his way across. We watch as he scoots a few inches at a time.
We each take our turn and are safely on the other side. We walk the tiny bit of trail back to the river, and then paddle our way across the river to our campsite. We are tired, but relieved to be in a safe place with dry clothes on. The past week we have been on a search-and-rescue mission for a missing runner in the wilderness, and our hearts are heavy with the reality that we may never find him.
A rainbow. A snowflake. A cloud. A sunset. A sunrise. A wildflower.
Nothing is permanent.
I lay back against the prickly tundra and stare up at the blue sky. A clear, blue sky isn’t even permanent, I realize.
On the heels of this trying search mission and the loss of a prominent mentor in the San Juans, a wave of sadness rippled through the community. Lives cut too dang short are the reminder we need to live with passion and pursue our dreams here and now.
My friend Erin Laine, who coordinated part of the mission we were on, beautifully wrote, “It’s been a heavy week of loss in the mountains. As I’ve walked the hills I’ve found solace in the beauty and splendor of a seemingly short life, knowing that in not so many months these drainages teeming with berries and wildflowers will once again go dormant in the winds of autumn. The patterns of life and death are vicious and terrible and have sharp teeth that pull and fray and at the same time it makes each breath, each moment all the more dear. Can we all just be a little better to each other, lighten the load for this brief moment we share?”
It is, I believe, the impermanence and fleeting nature of everything in life that makes it so beautiful.
I jog down the slope to a big patch of yellow flowers. The bees and moths and butterflies flit from one perch to another. I pull out my camera but every time I get ready to take a photo of them, they buzz quickly out of sight. Their lives too are short, but here they are pollinating the flowers that will then turn to seed and soon be blown around the mountainside, ready to bloom come next summer.
As we drift through love and loss and the many seasons of change, we have to pause and reflect in gratitude on the lessons we learn with the passing of time. Don’t be afraid to smile at the ephemeral moments that pass us by every day. Life is indeed too dang short to not enjoy them.
Call for Comments
Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the missing runner and the wider community in the San Juans. If you would like to offer some words of support, please do so in the comments.