Before I settled into camp at Ruby Lake, the night of catastrophizing where I became determined to bring appreciation rather than fearful anxiety to what could have been my last night alive, I sat near the lake and prayed, is this the right spot for me to stay tonight?
The lull of the late afternoon ascended as the sun descended behind the craggy peaks of Ruby Lake. The stillness of water, save the champagne like glistening of sunlight dancing across the small expanse, sedated the day's activities. Birds flitted here and thereto find their last nuggets of seeds and bugs for their evening nourishment. The dragonflies, jokering around in two- and threesomes, swerved in and around me at water's edge, occasionally hovering briefly at eye level, as rainbow glistening wings reflected splashes of sun rays. A chipmunk came next to me, perching on a rock overlooking the lake while munching on a pine cone.
Paying me no never mind, I wondered if it had the same awe I did this time of day? Did it choose this specific spot for the view at sunset? Or was it just a convenient relatively flat place where which to eat dinner?
This is what triggered the appreciation. What if my last moments are to be at Ruby Lake bearing witness to the aliveness and beauty that was only available to this human in this moment? What if my last moments were to be the witnessing with all my senses the end of day calm, save the lone bird screeching from the far side of the lake where a relatively small slab of snow remained and every once in a while a piece of scrabble fell a bit closer to it's final destination at the bottom of the lake? Or observing the last few breaches of a small trout breaking the silence of both sound and smoothness on the clear, flat surface? What if even the distant call of winds settling to a whisper are never cognizantly held by anyone except me in my final moments?
What is important here?
Wouldn't I prefer to spend these last precious moments in admiration and wonder? Who, if not me, will shower this moment with appreciation? How much of the unfolding of existence goes unwitnessed? Unappreciated?
How much of my life goes by without my awareness? Without my perceiving it? Without my acknowledgement? Without my admiration? Because I'm caught up in spacing out, concern, worry, regret, fear, planning?
Awareness sharpened, I set my intention to be a deserving witness to the unimaginable beauty unfolding around me--the solo human witness for each irreplaceable flowering miracle I was fortunate enough to be in the presence of at this pool of wonder. Ruby Lake was a gem of sacred stillness.
I awoke the next morning to the sounds of early morning hikers and a renewed spirit, sharing the solitude of the morning with the local creatures, recognizing the auspiciousness of every given moment and place. I took a leisure day, backtracking to Thousand Island Lake for a dip and ending up at another gem of a lake close by for the night.
After preparing for an incoming thunderstorm, the primary evening activity at Garnet Lake, another gem along the John Muir Trail, included reflecting on what I appreciated about my partner, Jim. Each item--how he knows the authentic me and honestly loves me; his quick, keen wit and sense of humor; his appreciation for good music; his smooth jazz saxophone playing; his soft supportive touch; just to name a few--brought a warmth and smile to my heart and deepened the love and appreciation I have for him.
How much do I miss and take for granted when I stay too busy to be contemplative and appreciative? What happens to my experience when I incline my mind toward appreciation?
Jim and I share an evening ritual of asking reflective questions for the day:
I missed that so far on the trail and started writing (then texting to Jim whether I had reception or not) my answers each evening. Each time, a crisp, clear awareness would arise and a goodness would fill my heart.
Being appreciative changed my experience--from fear to wonder and awe--and the more I did it the more my appreciation and joy deepened. And the beauty is that this is something I can choose--albeit sometimes quite difficult when I'm ensconced in a bout of anxiety and fear. But each time I choose it, it becomes more of a habit and easier and easier to call upon, particularly when I feel the first flutters of fear or anxiety arising. And
I can support creating this habit by practicing appreciation when I'm in a calm state, which then is easier to embed and create neural pathways in the brain. Then the habit becomes more readily accessible when I get triggered.
What are you appreciative of today? What do you notice when you bring appreciation to whatever is in your environment?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.