Looking at My Life’s Own Landscape

In August, I (Carol) did a first. I went backpacking!  With the idea coming from my son, Ryan and the detailed planning done by my husband, Chris, and daughter Allison and me (along with Courtney and Jared) being “pack mules”, our family headed up to Mount Lassen for what was a challenging yet beautiful trip.

Personally, I’ve got some “things” going on in my life that are challenging me. Back in my younger years, something like “this” would have overwhelmed and even derailed me. But with my practice of spirituality and coaching concepts, I can see the value in embracing the total “landscape” of my life.  So here are some thoughts I wanted to share.

First, about the trip itself… if you look closely in the photo below of Lassen Peak, you’ll see three tiny figures walking the upper rim of Cinder Cone. That happens to be Chris, Ryan and me. A photographer across the rim of this volcano snapped this photo. (Thank you, Evan!)

Hiking the Cinder Cone at Lassen

Cinder Cone is a 700-ft climb. It is tough, to say the least, as one walks this steep ascent on small pebbles the entire way up. For every three steps you take, you slide back one. On the climb, my goal was to keep up with Chris and Ryan. There were moments my heart was pounding so hard and my legs burned as I trudged through each step upward. Oh, but as we reached the top, it was clear we would be rewarded!

On the ascent, all I focused on were my feet taking steps, counting each one. “We’ll count 250 steps and then take a break.” Next, “Let’s count 150 steps.” And the higher we got and the more tired we became we agreed, “After we go 100 steps, we’ll take our next break.”  And lastly we counted in 50-step increments. I did anything to keep from looking up and seeing what felt like a never-ending journey. And then there we were… at the top!  I took a deep breath, (actually there were many!) looking back down to where we first started the hike up. I could see people who looked only a couple of inches tall!

The panoramic view was magnificent. We identified the lakes we had hiked around a couple of days before, the massive lava beds, and the painted dunes looked like a watercolor. We stood on the rim of this volcano, looking inward to where the earth once spewed dark, angry lava a few hundreds of years ago.  And we looked toward and forward to Lassen Peak where in contrast to the heat, there was still snow. Yes, the landscape was breathtaking.

As I stood at the top, taking it all in, I used this natural wonder to inspire and guide my own personal “challenge”. I connected to my own life’s “landscape”… where  there are stretches of happiness, joy, and what I call my “normal” calm day-to-day living. But then as life does, it presents all of us with adversity, sometimes crisis, and fear. At that moment, I connected to Mother Earth and my own role as a mother.

Each of us walks our own unique life journey, full of ups, downs, expected and the unexpected. I know for myself when I choose to focus on the purpose and meaning of my own life’s challenges, when I focus on my connection to something so much bigger and powerful than me (i.e., Mother Nature, the Universe,  Spirit, etc.), when I live in this way, an inner strength speaks to me. So though there may be colors and shades of dark at this moment in my life, what I do know for certain is I must take one step at a time, patiently and hopefully, as it is necessary to complete my life’s landscape.  And when I look back many years down the road from now, I know the more colors I experience, terrain I cover and storms I am able to weather, it will be a testament of a life well lived.