Inspiration in Many Forms


This is not a stock photo. It was taken with an iPhone by my partner, Christina, on a recent September day. Mt. Shucksan as mirrored in Picture Lake is one of the iconic photographs in Washington state. And we were lucky enough to visit when photographic conditions were perfect.

Many, many things about that day were inspirational. We drove past Picture Lake up to Artist’s Point where Mt. Shucksan rises in one direction and Washington’s youngest volcano, Mt. Baker, rises in the other direction. For several hours we hiked the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail filling our souls with the majesty of these two great mountains.

There were lots of people on the trail that day. We paused in the shade of a tree island to rest and have a small snack. An older woman and three male hikers paused to rest with us.

“Pardon me,” I said to the woman. “I am 64 and always looking to be inspired by someone older than myself. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

“I’m 90,” she said.

“Wow!” I responded.

“We are a four generation hiking party,” she continued. “My son here is 65. My grandson is 44 and my great grandson is 6.”

We had a marvelous conversation, including learning that she had just hiked three rocky, occasionally steep miles with her family. Her grandson, obviously proud of his grandmother, volunteered a lot of information about this Illinois woman hiking along at 5,000 feet elevation. I learned that part of her secret is hiking several miles a day and enjoying a gin and tonic at night.

As we watched them hike back towards the parking lot, I found myself as inspired by human nature as I was by scenic nature.

Still on the trail… and the trail is still here.

As I turn the calendar to September, I realize that Ann and I have celebrated summer in six countries this year.  Celebrated is the right word—for we love the long light and barefoot days, the sense that at the end of the “work day” there are still hours and hours of daylight to play in.

This year that has meant, walking the Medicine Wheel with twilight prayers for the questers on the mountain during our annual vision fast in Eastern Washington; strolling through the woods of the Taunus next to our conference center near Frankfurt, Germany; hiking all day and then watching hours of alpine glow on the snow covered peaks of the Eiger, the Munch, and the Jungfrau in Murren, Switzerland; getting up early to hike to the view over the Slovenia hill country northeast of Ljubljana; bicycling through vineyards in the slanted light of day’s end along the Croatian coast; a week with our children and grandchildren in coastal British Columbia… and finally, home again to the gardens, the beach, weeks of  tending to this little plot of earth we get to love. Dirty fingernails and old clothes, catching up with a few friends, the late summer Circle Practicum and culminating with an Advanced Circle Practices group that will gather on Whidbey mid-month—bringing us right to the Autumn Equinox.

Chain of Lakes trail, columnar basalt

Chain of Lakes trail, columnar basalt

Quite a trail…and while hiking the latest stretch—a 6+ mile tree-line ramble in the Mount Baker wilderness area on last week’s camping trip, I found myself reminiscing about the pace of life I find myself attempting at 67 years old.

A friend says, “A lot of people your age are retired, you know…”

I laugh and say, “I’m not the retiring type.”

Under the banter I’m seeking words to explain what I mean. I feel my aging, and celebrate that I am able to hike over rockslides with a view at the top of the Cascades Mountains. I let go of tracking certain aspects of pop culture while struggling to discern what I need to keep tracking. I accept leadership younger than myself. I practice focusing around the question: what is mine to do now? I seek to complete the task I said “yes” to: to plant the circle firmly into the world, to carry the story, to love the Earth. My goal remains to enable myself and others to live somehow differently in the midst of unraveling circumstances. My work is to inspire us to be our best selves, and then to act our best selves. And to use our full capacities to stand for what we believe.

This is the trail I’m on. This is the never-ending trail. It offers the long-view, and the hope of spiritual replenishment along the way. I am honored to be hiking–and in great company.