It’s already the end of May, and I’m not sure I can believe it. I could easily spend a whole post regaling you with tales from life lately… although it’s not really that entertaining. Life is just busy, and in a bookishly way. I’m frantic with writing research papers, reflective essays, and cramming for final exams (which loom massively, like a dragon hovering over the horizon.) Besides this dominating feature, I have started running, and finding that I really enjoy that. After struggling to make some progress in this area, I finally worked my way up to 3 mile runs. Sadly, the last weeks allergies have taken a toll, and so I’m hoping I don’t lose ground while I’m taking a few days off, waiting for the grass pollen to calm down.
But to summarize, life lately is me hovering over my laptop –me reading textbooks –me sweating as I run. You get the idea. Not that exciting.
I am, however, starting to get really excited about the weather warming up? Although, I’m still simultaneously being frustrated with allergies, and being exhausted on the weekends. The hiking season has definitively started, and I’m itchy to hit the trails. Unfortunately I’m also just itchy about being outside, which is a real snag. A few weeks back, I did sneak in one hike in the gorge (which is an excellent early year hike, due to a general lack of snow there.) I also managed to pick a wildflower rich weekend, and so it was ridiculously rewarding. My original goal this summer was to hit as many fire lookout trails as I could, but so far this has ended up being a zero. I had every intention of doing at least one in May, but… May is, as previously noted, basically over. It’s too early to be behind, isn’t it?
Last summer I somehow managed to go to at least one State park a month, and that meant I got to see some really great places that I had previously missed. There is something about a nice goal that can be incredibly motivational. Last year, July’s state part was Lake Wenatchee. The park contains a few shorter trails, but the views are stunning. And I happened to make it there on a gorgeous day, when it wasn’t too hot, or too cloudy, but Goldilocks-style, it was just right.
I was thinking about this yesterday, and thinking I need some better goals for this summer! Because, goals are motivating (as noted), and one really ought to be busy with the business of living. But then, as I was thinking about that, I slipped into one of those strange moods that I slip into every once in a while. I’m not sure if other people have this happen? But sometimes I get into these Ecclesiastes moods, which if you’re familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes, the book starts with these inspiring words:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
The book continues on with, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.”
It’s a real picker-upper. But I sometimes have these moods when I suddenly become overcome with this feeling that nothing in my life really matters, and I don’t even care, and I don’t even know why I’m here, much less what I’m doing. Who cares about goals.
And when I get in these moods, they spiral fast: “why am I doing any of this?” Like, “what’s the point?” .. and “who cares…? Who cares if I check off a bunch of hikes this summer? What’s the point of working hard to get more things…? What good will my graduate degree do anyway?” and “so what if I save money for retirement? Is life just a checklist that we work through, to carry us to death? Seriously, what’s the point, and who cares?” And when I’m really in deep with this mood, in the complete thick of it, even altruistic ideas about helping other people feel dumb… like nothing more than self-inflating vanity.
In case you can’t figure this out? These moods are a fast train to nowhere land. I’m not sure why I seem particularly prone to such moods, and I hope you are not in solidarity with the experience? But I admit fully, these moods come to me from time to time.
But yesterday as I was getting sucked into such a mood, I begin to remember this day in Lake Wenatchee. This day, that I went to hike, but actually ended up mostly sitting on the lake side, taking off my boots, and wading out into the water. And then, instead of focusing on a destination, I just set on this large boulder, and ate my snack, and watched the waves lapping against the shore. I set fully present, and full of wonder, because this place was so full of peace and beauty.
There is nothing wrong with goals and to-do list, and having dreams. But I find that in themselves, these things can become incredibly hollow. Which perhaps was the point the Ecclesiastes author was really getting at. The truth is, there is nothing earth made that I really want just for the sake of that thing. This is true of material goods for sure, but this is also true of experiences and degrees, and even of relationship status’ … there is nothing that I see as bringing my heart true satisfaction in and of itself. There has to be something more. What my heart seems to be truly hungry for is wonder and adventure, particularly when shared within the context of relationship. The thing I think I’m most chasing, is the feeling of wonder. And in moments when I get too focused on my to-do list, I am always disappointed, because none of these things contain wonder in themselves.
Wonder, not unlike hope, is one of those elusive states of being that is easy to lose track of. If you try to hold onto either of them for their sake, they seem to slip away. I started thinking about hope a while back, and decided it was easier to think of it like a path; something that was simply the trail towards a specific direction. So if hope is a pathway towards what you hope for… then what you hope for is of extreme importance… even more so than the hope itself.
If what you most hope for is vapid? Your path will be vapid. If what you hope for is only self-fulfillment? Then your path may just be a pointless circle leading back to only yourself. A big and glorious, substantive, life requires a big and glorious, substantive, hope.
And perhaps, I am beginning to believe, wonder is like that… Wonder is a reverberation of something, not the thing itself. And if this is true, I think at times I have been guilty of being too passive about wonder. We can after all choose the paths we take; I believe that hope is something that we can choose for our life, but perhaps I also need to wake-up choosing wonder as well?
I have been following the Instagram account, Leefromamerica for a while, and one of the things she does every month is set monthly intentions. These might include things like ‘no phone at meal times’ that are really practical and measurable? But also things like ‘don’t take anything personally.’ I really like this idea a lot, of setting your intentions. But as I’m getting ready to start this summer, I think the intention I am most interested in cultivating is that of wonder. And while I’m not as clear about what this practically looks like? Perhaps it simply begins with focusing my sights on that which is wonderful, and then allowing the reverberations to sink in?
I’m not sure if I’ll make it to one or any fire lookouts this summer, but even if it’s just wondering the trails in my own neighborhood? I want to do it with wonder, on purpose.
Or as I’m reminded of this quote from one of my favorite movies Joe Vs. the Volcano,“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” My intention this June is to be awake, and to cultivate wonder wherever I am.