Sunday, January 13, 2013

In The Canyon

A friend emailed last week to ask if I wanted to join her on a lengthy hike in Topanga State Park, and it was a no brainer—I hadn’t seen her in eons, I hadn’t been to Topanga SP in eons, and I still hadn’t visited her new home in the canyon. 

The house was beautiful, a woodsy retreat tucked into a hillside, with heaps of charm to spare. I detoured into daydreams about writing in their small guesthouse, sipping coffee on the porch, listening to birdcall and rustling leaves. The writer’s life, a rustic wistfulness.

But I’ll get there, I will.

I was in a great mood as we started on the trail. My lungs and legs immediately ached, a sign that I’m still on my path to recovery from a year of relative sloth when it comes to hiking. It was a bluebird day; the skies wiped clean from rain and high winds, sunshine flooding the horizon—Catalina, the San Gabriels, and even a snow-capped Mt. San Jacinto in the distance. As much as I enjoy hiking on any day, I especially enjoy those days when the views lodge your breath in your throat and remind you of how infinitesimal you are in the grand scheme.

Conversation flowed as easily as it can in between huffs and puffs. Work, mutual friends, recreational pastimes, fitness, beauty, and then—depth. We acknowledged it when our conversation rounded that corner—and it always does on hikes like this, where the miles take you hours into the wilderness, and the conversation shifts from water cooler to something more meaningful. There’s something about the air, the vistas, the sunshine—the act of hiking as a journey, rather than a means to an end—that encourages this kind of talking on these kinds of days.

We talked about dreams and hopes. My friend talked about her immediate work goals, but also divulged her long-term plan: work hard, sock away a bunch of dough, invest in canyon property, and create a true Topanga rental retreat—something that speaks to the (yes, sort of hippie) magic of this ethereal slice of the Santa Monicas that is more about nature and harmony than about luxury and romance.

I daydreamed again about living in the canyon, about writing more, about loving life even more. I told her that I, too, had a long-range plan (that’s actually shorter-range than I let on sometimes): I want to write again—for more than myself—and find a new rhythm in life. Maybe move to the canyon, or somewhere similar. I want a backyard, a garden, trees, greenery, sun, and fresh air. I want the smell of a wood fire to no longer be relegated to camping trips. I want to change my perspective.

Sometimes hiking is about perspiration, and sometimes it’s about inspiration.

On this particular sunny, cool January morning, it was both.

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