In the midst of winter I finally learned that there is in me an invincible summer.Albert Camus
It is a week for gratitude. I give thanks for all the usual things that elderly women are grateful for: my daughters, grandchildren, friends, good food, good company. But as a hiker I also have a lifetime of memories for which I am grateful, memories of the trail, moments of wonder. There are lots of them, of course, but here are a couple that stand out, reminding me on difficult days in the dark of winter that I am a hiker, and that matters.
I remember the night I awoke under a full moon on the High Divide of the Olympic Mountains to the sound of muffled hoof beats, the shadows from a herd of elk passing gently through my camp not far from where I lay, surrounding me on all sides with mothers and their calves. I wondered how it was that such large animals could step so softly upon the earth, and if I might ever learn to move that way.
I remember the night I awakened in a high camp in the Bighorn Mountains, dazzled by lights flashing overhead, fearing a thunderstorm for which I had not prepared on that cloudless night. I unzipped my tent and lay on the ground, watching the Perseid Meteor Shower transform the dark sky into an explosion of light, feeling myself at that moment a light in the sky, soaring above Cloud Peak, the Bighorns, the Rocky Mountains, my little life suddenly transformed.
So it is that on a cold night in this isolated corner of the state, I descend into layers of goose down when I go to bed at night. The calendar may not yet claim that winter has arrived, but in this cold north country there has been snow on the ground for over a week, and the nights are long. It will be a long time before so much as a blade of green grass can be seen here, and when that happens it is a cause for celebration.
But in the meantime I have memories of the trail, of elk passing through my camp, of a meteor shower lighting up the sky, of a life spent on mountain trails. . .where anything can happen.