Messages from my Quiet Place

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Despite all of its rewards, the excitement of this year’s Squatchfest weekend left me feeling drained, so by mid-day Sunday it was lights out for me.

I awoke the following Monday rested and rejuvenated but something still felt a little off. As I inventoried the tasks on my to-do list, I felt restless. The call of the Clackamas coupled with my compulsion to get away from civilization prompted me to grab my day pack and the dogs and get out of town before I changed my mind.

I hopped into my Forester and headed east with a vague plan in mind. I passed a well-aged Mt Hood National Forest sign as the road turned into a two track. From memory, I navigated the graded logging roads; left, then left again, right then left, reminding myself “for god’s sake don’t get complacent about the potholes.” After forging ahead through sections of snowy road of questionable integrity, I pulled up at the trailhead that had called my name.

The quiet little box canyon in question had come to feel like my own private preserve. The trail sign was hidden by a tangled web of Salal, Vine Maple and Huckleberry, all but given back to nature. I could count the number of fellow hikers I’d ever encountered on this trail on one hand. As we began our climb, the dogs took on their familiar pack positions. Patsy scrambled ahead, sprinting back, always urging us forward as Pancake slowly plodded behind and I tried to keep a steady pace somewhere in between.

As I silently made my way up trail, over the carpet of duff, I noticed the stark contrast of the forest here to the dull wintery growth along the road in. The needles here were richer, more vibrant as they stood out GREEN and bright against the hard, gray sky and canyon walls across from us. The sounds of the wind at the trailhead were muffled there under the canopy. I was embraced by the cedar boughs as they trembled in silence. The sound of Pancake’s padding paws was barely audible, punctuated by the occasional jingle of dog tags.

As we crested the last rise, we emerged from the tree line and arrived at our destination; a seldom used lakeside camp. The quick rustling as I set up my camp stool was followed by an utter silence. The iced lake surface was cupped in the bottom of a granite dish as if it were held in the palm of a giant. Wind-blown snow lay close to icy water around the edges of a half-submerged trunk. No birds flew, no insects buzzed. I slowed my breathing to decipher what my racing mind was running away with. So many things to do, so much to worry about… What was I doing there? I had work to do!

My inclination to retreat inward in began to feel almost comical in the presence of the quiet that surrounded me. I focused my attention outward. I thought about the Bigfoot Center and all of the opportunities that lie ahead. I imagined a blank canvas, primed and ready for us to write the story of the museum, our community and partnerships. I felt a surge of ideas as the noise of my distracted mind was slowly replaced by ideas of inspiration and hope. Sketches, designs and diagrams of displays and exhibits unfolded in my mind’s eye, as if I flipped through a notepad, seeing them all complete and perfect and compelling in their entirety, just waiting to be realized. I thought of the vehicle we’re creating and where it can take us; the creators, our visitors and cohorts. A perfect message slowly came into view, a message I’d received and forgotten many times before, only to remember it when it’s appropriate.

I slowly smiled, exhaled and began to pack up my things. The dogs, reading my body language were already waiting where the trail plunged back down into the forest.

My hike down the once serene canyon was filled with a cacophony of ideas. My steps echoed like quiet thunder as I made my way down the path towards the car. I could see my to-do list carved in stone, ready for me to start chipping away. At the edge of a particularly steep switchback I felt compelled to stop and bellow out a cry. It was less a sasquatch call than it was a song of joy. I was not embarrassed by its off-key nature and I let it be what it was. Its echoes sang back to me, through the cedars, pointing to my core. It sang me a message we often do not hear, as we try to find our scattered centers.

The message is simple. When in doubt, go where the sasquatch goes and you’re generally headed in the right direction. Getting away from everything leads us back to the center of it all.

Happy trails. See you “out there”.

-Minty

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