As I sit here on a cold grey day, listening to the rain tapping on the window while a vinyl record spins and crackles softly in the background, I can think of all the million things I could be writing, but none of which I truly feel inspired to share right now.
In this moment, the only words I want to read are ones that pull me closer to the present, and rather than escape to a new world, all I want to write are words that keep me grounded in my own.
So here it is:
Sip your coffee slowly. Not every day has to be your wildest adventure. Sometimes a life well lived is the very notion of recognizing the present. Recognizing that you are living, and that that is enough. Allow yourself to watch the raindrops that hit your window. Watch them dance along the glass. Listen to the silence that echoes through your house once the needle lifts from the groove on your record. Take these precious moments of your alone time and use them to nourish yourself. Speak to yourself, but speak softly. Be kind, be patient, be gentle. Allow yourself to breathe. We use so much energy filling our brain with the need to think think think, and the need to be five steps ahead of the present moment, but sometimes it’s okay not to think at all. If you don’t start learning to indulge yourself in little mundane moments such as this, how will you ever learn to be present in the bigger ones? Find your calm, because life will always be crazy. Wether it’s the non stop demands of school, a busy job, or the chaos of constantly trying to please those around you, there will always be the need to take a breath. So use this moment you have right now. Put this blog post away, and listen to the world . Take this moment for yourself, because much like when you write for your own enjoyment, learning to steal moments for you and only you will become an oasis for your mind.
When I was young, I would play in a world created by the forest. Where each swaying branch was a secret door to a new adventure filled with menacing dragons and mischievous fairies. Trees were not just climbed, but conquered, and each limb gave a vantage point to a new world. Sometimes a lookout upon an impassable wilderness, and other times an ocean full of mermaids and dolphins. Roots and rocks were tables and chairs from which we feasted on mud cakes iced with pebbles and drank from goblets of leaves. Imagination flowed freely and magic was a faithful friend.
As time passed on, the fairies flew away to another land, perhaps to play with a new kid, but the magic they held still lingered within the woods. For years, I wondered if this childish wonder would ever return and often questioned if I would view the world through as rose-colored lenses as my younger self once did.
It is said that the islands of Hawaii are alive, that the spirits and legends are not just words on paper but a living spirituality within the land and its people. As a complete outsider, I felt like an intruder to this sacred world, that maybe I wasn’t connected enough to Oahu to experience such a coveted energy. This all changed the first time I walked down a twisting path of sand and grass, beaten down by the countless soles before me. Grass creeped between my toes and my calloused feet braved the pointy rocks hidden underneath the scattered sand along the trail. Each step brought me closer to a secluded beach, where a jungle gave way to a horseshoe shaped shoreline and the sun bleached sand sloped gently towards and shining sea. The sun was high in the sky and the air was electric, buzzing with the promise of adventure. My friends and I ran for the ocean, throwing our bags down without a second thought, mesmerized by the turquoise water before us, dying to jump in.
I can still remember the first time I dove into the water. In seconds, I was transported to a new world, surrounded by a salty serenity where sound stopped and everything became new. I opened my eyes and through a blurry haze, could imagine myself eight years old again, exploring the kingdom of Atlantica as The Little Mermaid. Instinctively, I kicked my legs towards the bottom, diving deeper to reach for the sand below. I dug my fingers into its silky surface and emerged with a handful, watching as it changed in my hand from its fabric like form to a compacted ball of mud. I let the sand fall through my fingers and looked to the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, letting my world illuminate with gold. I let my body sway as I was now afloat, slowly moving back and forth with the transferring energy of each wave. Ever since I was little, I felt as if swimming was the closest I would ever get to flying. In the water, I felt as if I was drifting through space. Fully suspended in complete nothingness, where I could spin, and twirl, and flip, and dive and the only thing to stop me was the liquidity of the sea. With palms outstretched, I would reach to either side and only to be greeted with vast amounts of nothingness, only water and my own feeling of total suspension. Pulling myself back to the present, I tried this out again, testing out my old childish tricks, flipping and spinning without intention or direction. The magic of the woods had returned and I was flying.
As the day rolled on, we played among the waves as they crashed into shore, becoming obsessed with the pursuit of catching a rolling barrel, again and again and again. Once the ocean had filled our ears with water and our bathing suits became weighed down with permanent pounds of sand, we would seek refuge on the shore and soak up the the sun. Tired, but far from defeated, we recovered on the beach until our skin felt the familiar itch of a creeping sunburn, signaling that it was time to brave the tumbling waves once again. The day mostly consisted of this, ocean to sand, sand to ocean rotating in what seemed to be a never ending cycle. As the day began to wind down and the sun started to lessen it’s rays, I could feel my mind fill with ease and allowed by body to follow suit, sinking deeper into my towel, molding a girl-sized impression into the soft sand. I breathed in, feeling the sticky sweet humidity stir with the unintentional salt water in my lungs. The air felt truly alive, as if it were infusing each breath in with a softy spoken energy. If the Hawaiian goddess Pele really did shape these islands, I would say that her magic remains within their sandy shores, echoing through each crashing wave, and her spirit remains alive through magic of the island, touching only those who are lucky enough to experience it. As the sun started to climb its way down from its lofty perch, the sky became painted with pink and gold, and I watched as it slipped a blanket of golden warmth onto the restless ocean as it twisted and turned in rebellion. The ocean seemed to challenge the sky, dodging the rays in an intricate dance from blue to gold and gold to blue until finally giving up the fight, letting each golden tendril of the sun weave into a layer of warmth over the restless sea. I watched each wave crash dreamily on to the beach, moving slowly, like the heavy eyelids of a tired child. I could feel the sighs of the koa trees, as they too began to release the weight of their knotted trunks, swaying sleepily with the breeze signaling the approaching night. The movement of the beach carried whispers of words not quite tangible, like a lullaby in a foreign language. But maybe that’s for a reason; maybe the spirits from the islands speak in a tongue that is only to be heard by those who see that they still remain; alive and well. Or maybe, it’s the magic from my childhood, finding its way back into the world around me: through the dance of the sun and the sky, along the green paths twisting like snakes to secluded beaches, swaying with the trees and dancing in unison with the breeze. Maybe, it’s the fairies from my childhood forests, in their rightful home, within this secluded beach where imagination and reality have twisted into one, on the island of Oahu.
“Have fun, try hard, and make new friends” My father’s voice still echos through my mind and I can see his mischievous smile while he waits for my eye roll as he drops me off for track practice. For as long as I can remember, that has been my father’s motto. Have fun, try hard, and make new friends. Often, it is said as a joke, as a way to make one of us smile before he head out the door in the morning, to remind us that life is fun, and not to take things too seriously. However, as silly and unassuming this phrase may be, it has led me to more experiences than I give it credit for. You see, when you follow the narrative of having fun, trying hard, and making new friends, talking to strangers becomes an act of second nature.
Which leads me to the present day, or more specifically, last weekend where I had the pleasure of making a new friend while on a hike. Who only moments before, was a complete stranger. When I first saw him, he was twisting around the bend of a mountain ridge line that emerged from an orange smoggy sky. He was wearing an orange mountaineering helmet, a backpack with long ropes tied onto the sides, and gripped two blue hiking poles that seemed to be compensating for a noticeable limp in his step. Grey and gruff, his blue eyes shone from underneath bushy eyebrows and were fixated on the horizon ahead of him. Little tufts of silver hair poked out from underneath his helmet, bouncing up and down as they caught the gentle breeze of the alpine air. He passed a couple groups of hikers and I watched as he made his way past us to head down from the summit. Maybe it was because of COVID-19 and the fear of close contact, or maybe it was the older gentleman’s slightly feral appearance, but each group of hikers seemed to avoided eye contact and any form of acknowledgement towards the man as he passed by.
I looked at these interactions (or lack of) and thought to myself, “that’s not very have fun, try hard, and make new friends of them” and soon after, I was hiking down the trail after him, hoping to catch him on the way down.
“Hi! Did you come from summiting the Lions?”
The man looked up at me, surprised that someone had addressed him. I watched as the smile lines around his eyes shifted into their familiar grooves and he answered back with a grin worn only by someone who has just experienced a day of alpine stoke and adventure. “Sure did” he replied with a smile, “took me longer than usual though because of this damned American smoke. Thought I’d escape it if I climbed high enough.”
And that was it, my simple “Hi” followed by a single question led into a full conversation that lasted almost the entire rest of our hike down the mountain. We began talking about we each experiment the hike that day, the weather, the summer and how COVID-19 has changed what we both normally do in terms of socializing and it’s influence on our hobbies. As we were talking, my eyes caught the funky pattern of his crew cut socks – a pattern that could only be distinguished as the theme of a coveted bike race in Victoria, BC. One question flowed into another and next thing I knew we catapulted into a whole new and exciting conversation about his life as a professional cyclist. He told me about his life before cycling and how his love for road races originated from his early days as professional Ironman athlete, where he travelled to a handful of countries across the world to compete and train. He told me how he met his wife and got her hooked on a life lived outdoors, and about his passion for trail running and hiking. He told me about the multi day/ multi event relay races that he enters with his group of friends, enduro cycling, and the whacky meals he eats to refuel while on the road, his love for back country skiing, and intertwined life lessons into each story of his life of sports and adventure.
In regards to the week 1 course reading “How to Talk to Strangers” by James Hamblin, I am most interested in the aspect of how detaching from societal expectations surrounding “talking to strangers” allows us to acknowledge one another’s humanity. The interaction that I experienced while on my hike was perfect proof that the biggest barriers we face towards human connection are the ones we create in our minds. All it takes is a conscious choice to break the ice and engage with “strangers” around you, because most of the time, they’re never that strange at all.
That day, I chose to break through the invisible barriers that we create for ourselves when it comes to meeting new people. By following the phrase “have fun, try hard, and make new friends” I was able to turn what could have been another stranger in passing into a friend. From this experience, I was able to take away an amazing conversation, shared stories and knowledge, and was able to see what life can look like when you follow your passion towards a lifetime of sports and adventure.
At first, it seems like you have so much of it, more than your two hands could ever hold, and you let the sands fall to the side without thinking a second thought.
It feels like you have endless days to spare, and the future is but a vague idea in the distance. However, before you know it, months turn into weeks and weeks turn into days and soon you realize the time you once had has turned into grains
Now, you’re closing your fists,
holding onto as much time as your two hands can hold before it’s gone.
How many adventures did you save for “someday”? How many friends are still left waiting to “catch up soon”? How many moments did you choose not to take, allowing yourself to bite the comforting bait of “next time I will”. How many nights were spent inside, leaving sunsets and stars unseen? How many new and beautiful people did you miss on meeting? Or love, that never found it’s way to you, sitting on the other side of that closed front door.
Where along the way in your busy life did you forget that you cannot “catch up” on time to live?
There is no next time, there is only now,
and now will be all there ever is.
Life moves fast, faster than you think.
It’s 3am and all I can think about is what am I going do with the time I have left.