As I drove down the hill toward the trail I had hastily chosen for my morning hike, Bryan Adams sang, “those were the best years of my life”, taking me back with him to the summer of ’69. Those were good days, I though, lost for a moment in the memory of being carefree and vibrantly alive with anticipation and the exhilaration of youth. A different time for sure, I declared, out loud as has become my habit during Covid, probably a vain attempt to fill the empty space.
I parked in my usual spot under the red oaks that lined the road just past the bridge, grabbed my pack and stepped out. Something is different. I felt it immediately. An Eastern wind was blowing, dry and strong. Unusual, I thought. The prevailing winds are always from the west. I wondered why, but let it go as I strapped on my day pack and headed for the steep climb. I needed it today.
The breeze picked up as I started up the trail, The Summer of 69 echoed in my head. I recalled that summer between 8th grade and high school. It was a big transition for an innocent thirteen year old. There was so much that was new and unfamiliar, an uncharted passage from childhood to my teens. It was all so exciting. I thought about the last time I felt excited. It seemed the world and life had become a grey haze of reality, everyday melding into the night, after spending it pretty much as I had spent the day before.
I need something new, I exclaimed. Again out loud. The wind swirled around me, the bright yellow leaves of a black walnut tree cascaded into a gentle freefall, littering the path at my feet. I thought about rebirth, revitalization and rejuvenation and how it is nature’s way. Aren’t we part of nature’s grand scheme? If the trees can shed what is no longer relevant and regrow bright green, supple leaves every spring, why couldn’t I cycle through a phase and emerge renewed? But, I pondered, the leave that grows from that branch, that sprouts from that exact spot, is not the same as the one that fell just now as I watched. It will be different, in subtle ways, perhaps, but different none the less.
So, I quizzed the tree, “Is that the secret to revitalizing a life?” We can’t go back and summon forth those same experiences. They won’t make us as happy as we were back then, they can’t. We need new and different, as different as that new leaf that sprouts in the spring.
We need to embrace, every experience, casualty, catastrophe and mild inconvenience for how it leaves its mark, causes adaptation and forces us to grow ever so slightly different. Even the hardships have their purpose. Out of the suffering and frustration grows the will to do it differently next time and to succeed.
Lost in my thoughts, feeling like I was on the verge of an important conclusion, I suddenly realized I was standing at the lake shore, completely unaware of how I had gotten there. I glanced down and saw there something that had evaded me dozen of times in the past as I stood right where I was standing now, a narrow trail along the water’s edge. A new trail, somewhere I had never been before. Standing there with the Eastern wind blowing my hair across my face, I thought. Today is the day. And I headed off in a new direction.