Tag Archives: hiking

No such thing as a bad friend

I recently spent some time with a friend I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. She has two sons, close in age to my own. When all four boys were small, the six of us spent quite a bit of time together.

She was the consummate organizer — always quick to suggest a new hiking trail, a field trip, an adventure. I was the overwhelmed small business owner and full-time mom who gratefully followed her lead, knowing my sons would never have slept under the stars on the balcony of a mountain cabin or hiked with llamas or rafted down the Colorado River if it weren’t for her.

As the boys grew, they pursued different interests, found different friends, grew in different directions. Though their tight connections unraveled, my friend and I stayed close.

But when her family moved to Portland, the frequency of our visits dropped dramatically. Sometimes I’d only see her once a year, when she came back during the winter holidays.

In December 2009 , I was getting ready to start up Piestewa Peak with my husband and my brother, who was visiting from Seattle. I turned around, and there was my friend. We hugged and made enthusiastic exclamations about how we should get together. I promised to call.

I never did. And I felt so guilty about it that I let many more months pile up, until it felt like the tie had perhaps been severed for good.

But I mourned the loss of this special friend, to whom I’d often confided my deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that she would always be straight with me in her response. So on her birthday last week, I sent her an email. I told her that I missed her and that every time I was hiking in the desert, I thought of her.

Much to my delight, she responded immediately. Better yet, she was here in town! We made plans to get together for a hike.

When I met her at the trailhead, it was as if no time at all had passed. My sense of comfort with her was intact, untainted by the lapse of time. For the next hour and a half, we caught up on each other’s lives as we made a wide loop through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

When it was time to go, I told her how glad I was to have had the time with her. I apologized for the fact that my self-absorbed distractions made me such a bad friend.

Her reassurance was immediate. “I stopped judging friendships a long time ago,” she said. “When we cross paths, we cross paths. When we don’t, we don’t.”

She knows that real friendships have no room for societal conventions, unrealistic expectations or guilt. Real friendships just are.

A day that was anything but terrible

Generations of parents have used Judith Viorst’s wonderful children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, to help their children understand that all of us have days when everything seems to go wrong. Days when mothers forget to put yummy treats in your lunch box and the dentist finds a cavity and the store doesn’t have any of the shoes you like in your size. When you want to run away to some place far away (Alexander was fixated on Australia) but you know, deep down (or your mother flat out tells you) that people have bad days there, too.

Thankfully, most of us don’t have those “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days” very often. We don’t have spectacular days that often either. Most days end up somewhere in between.

Today I had one of those rare, spectacular days. Thanks to my understanding, supportive and “we’ve got your back” magazine staff, I was able to spend the entire day pursuing an independent writing project of my own. The morning flew by as I reviewed my research and prepared for an afternoon interview that I expected to last an hour. I was there for three. I learned things I never knew before (always the best kind of day). I was with people who inspire and challenge me. By the time I headed home I was flying high.

Even elation is exhausting. I’d planned to go hiking at the end of the day but almost talked myself out of it. I had so many notes to review! Audio files to back up and log! And my mind was brimming with ideas.

Thankfully, I didn’t give up my hike. The slow, methodical plodding of my boots settled my thoughts.  The fresh air cleared my head. The exertion brought calm.

As I reached the summit, I looked to the west and realized the unintended perfection of my timing. The sun was just then dipping below the horizon–a process so routine that most days we ignore it. And yet when we take the time to look, we find it magical.

As I hurried down the trail, hoping to get back to the parking lot before it got too dark, I heard an owl hooting on the ridge to my right. The soothing sound kept me company nearly all the way down.

Today it was Karen and the Wonderful, Delightful, All Good, Very Awesome Day.