Before his Monday off James asks, "How about a hike?"

With the season almost over I might have expected this. His lovely fiancee, Kimi, is back at school in Washington. I'm needing to create my long to-do list and get things accomplished, but a hike only takes up one day. How can I refuse? Especially now that it's become nostalgic.

Still, I'm reluctant. "I have a little phobia," I remind James. "But yes, let's go."

The day's a bit forest-fire smoky, but by the time we reach these woods the sky is clearer. Our light will continue bronze-tinted, the hills and the mountains gray-blue.

When he was 15, James wanted to hike every minute. That was the year we almost could.

He was growing up, following me along the trails. Receiving his P.E. credits for school, engaging with geology, topography, the solar system touching earth. Where would this lead him? A mother wonders, imagines. Forest ranger? Astronomer? Maybe a professor someday.

Now he's 24. He wants to study this forest trail because he learned there was a fire here a century and a half ago. He wants to see how it grew back. Today I'm following him. Fortunately, at first the path is steadily ascending, not too steep yet. I'm not in shape for hills like I was nine years ago.

The woods are quiet. We don't talk much. After a while, I bring up theology; it's what I always do. I like a definition I read this past week. From Christopher Veniamin's The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: "Theology is the description of our encounter with God." I express to James some of my descriptions. He responds with his own thoughtful thinkings.

Now the trail grows steeper, so I'm busy puffing. James gets farther ahead, and then he kindly slows. "Do you want to rest?" he asks.

"No, keep going." If I stop, I'll have to start again.

We do pause at last for James to check his book. It's one by author/hiker William Sullivan, whose adventures inspired my son at 15 and gave us the scoop on many hiking options. I'm not real grateful for all the winding, graveled roads I navigated to different trailheads. But for the views, the euphoric accomplishments, oh yes, I appreciate you, Bill S.

It should be a half mile now to Rooster Rock. I shuffle forward. Step, step. My fingers' pulse pounds my water bottle. Step, step. Maybe I can't do this. Was labor and delivery any easier? Step, step.

James points out how the forest has changed, from the moister region below to a much drier climate up here. At first we were passing rhododendrons. Now over there is a madrone tree.

I try to muster interest. My head is down and my lungs must be collapsing. James offers a salal berry and I decline. Step, step.

We're almost there. The trail levels briefly, plus there is a puff of breeze. Yay. Then, even better, a noise from above. "What animal made that sound?" I ask.

James glances back to see my grin. He knows I recognize laughter. He also knows any other live sound would send me into a panic.

I prefer, more than I ever did nine years ago, to see lots of people when I hike. It's been weird having a phobia develop. That twist in the pit of my stomach. Anymore, whenever I enter the wilderness it's there. I constantly look back. I fear sometime I'll see a bear or cougar, and my thoughts spiral. It's the unknown factor; it's facing my lack of control.

Today we find a group of young women welcoming us to our viewpoint. They're engaged with lunch. James and I examine the forested canyon and the smoky blue beyond.

I ask the other hikers if I can take their picture for my blog, and they seem happy to pose.

What could ever go wrong? I feel that way, having reached the goal. Yet, being me, I ponder the long way down.

Waiting for James to check one more spot of interest, I practice the art of the selfie, blustered and sweaty though I be.

I hear a growl. It's my stomach. The way to lunch is down, and I'm glad to venture it, along with twisty fearfulness and hunger and my grownup son.


Dee said…
Dear Deanna, a forest, an arcing sky, the wind riffling the leaves, a pathway that disappears over a ridge--all this it seems to be leads to meditation and to a wonderment both of the beauty and the fierceness of Nature. So I find myself understanding your musings.

This sentence speaks to me also: "Theology is the description of our encounter with God." I need to muse on that and see what it says to me. Thank you. Peace.
deanna said…
Thanks, Dee. Happy musing.