Eleven years ago, cancer stole my husband. Sometimes it seems like yesterday when I look at is handsome face. However, of this I am certain, I was blessed to have this beautiful man in my life for almost 33 years.
After navigating through the dark waves of grief, I entered the next lesson, transitions. This phase of rebuilding my life stretched my learning curve, blessed me, made me cry, occasionally annoyed me and made me laugh. Following is the annoyance to laughter transition.
I remember Werner with the story of our hike to a remote pond campsite and the transition that now makes me smile. It all began after I bought a two person tent for Werner.
I bought the tent because my Swiss husband, and life-long mountain climber, expressed an interest to hike to and camp-out at remote mountain ponds. However, when just the two of us hiked to these nether reaches of the wilderness, my comfort level never quite hit the one hundred percent, I am fine with this, button. Cell phones did not exist. Bears did.
On this camping trip, Jurg our youngest son and home from college joined us. While they packed their individual rucksack with the overnight gear, I had spread out on the kitchen table, anticipation laced their conversation. They filled the inside of their backpacks with food, water, a bottle of French red wine, sweaters, my pencils, and sketchbook. Once they decided who would carry 3 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping pads, Jurg’s camping hammock, fishing gear, and the tent, they strapped the gear to the outside of their backpacks. I carried nothing. Packing done, we were off.
We couldn’t understand this phenomenon because the end of the trail opened to East Pond, a crystal clear pond nestled in the mountains. Knowing this, we nurtured our hopes that we would be the only party to enjoy the pond’s quiet beauty, swim in the cold water and enjoy dinner at the water’s edge.
Our favorite East Pond camping spot offered an open large sandy beach and a prime view of the pond. While we hiked I remembered our other dinners shared around a campfire and watching the sun dip behind the mountains. The thoughts lightened my steps. As day transitioned to early evening, Werner pampered me. He boiled tea water for me on his small propane burner. Warmed inside by his care, I gathered and handed him dry sticks to start a campfire. I loved sitting encircled in his arms and watching the sun say a fiery
As day transitioned to early evening, Werner used his small propane stove to boiled hot water for tea. We gathered dry sticks to start a fire in a rock pit. The sun made a last fiery goodnight, before it disappeared behind the mountain ridge. Blackness descended on us until the full moon appeared behind the mountains. In front of us the water’s surface reflected the yellow face. Behind us, the forest disappeared in the night. Frogs presented a free symphony surrounded by the sound of water caressing the shore and slapping against rocks.
The ink-black shade pulled down over the forest, gave light to my darker imaginings. Of course, unseen critters must be watching us from the void. Whatever my childish imaginings, I loved to see Werner relax. He was at home in the mountain wilderness, in his element and happy.
On this particular hike, transitional turmoil played havoc with our chosen destination. We arrived at East Pond, immediately disappointed to see our favorite campsite occupied. “Not to worry, my positive thinking Werner exclaimed. “We will take the campsite over there. It’s even better than our usual one.” He pointed across the pond.
“Not to worry, my positive thinking Werner exclaimed. “We will take the campsite over there. It’s even better than our usual one.” He pointed across the pond.
I looked across the pond at the open campsite. “Yes,” I agreed. “It’s beautiful, but it’s across the pond and inaccessible.” Water covered the normal sandy and rock trail around the pond and extended into the brush on the far side of the path. I thought my logical observation closed the subject.
Water covered the normal sandy and rock trail around the pond and extended into the brush on the far side of the path.
I thought my logical observation closed the subject.
Not to be deterred, Werner told us that he knew another route around the pond.
“Really,” I said, “how do you propose we find that route, as all normal routes to the campsite are underwater?”
Without hesitation, he said, “we will bush-whack.” I probably rolled my eyes at this point, but not to spoil his fun, I followed behind Jurg and him. We continued to walk along the normal unobstructed path, arrived at our favorite campsite, greeted the occupiers and trod on for a few moments.
“Wait a minute, stop,” I said. The normal trail ended. I felt my boots squish in the muck under my feet. “With all that gear you carry, you mean to tell me that we are going to bush-whack through that dense jungle and over fallen trees underfoot?” I carried nothing.
“We’ll be fine,” Werner assured me. Bush-whacking transitioned us from the fine familiar unobstructed path to the jungle. We squeezed through saplings packed tight together. and gingerly stepped up and over downed trees. The forest floor was a booby trap of holes made by rotting trees crisscrossing each other. Step wrong and the overgrown brush covering these holes became a leg-breaker.
With every step I mumbled,” of course, we’ll be fine,” as my foot dropped into another hole. Humidity levels in the forest added to my misery. I climbed over tree trunks, stumbled into hidden holes, and caught the toes of my boots in the tangled mass of rotting limbs and sticks. My shirt stuck to me skin.
I chuckled when my two adventurer’s progress halted mid-step their backpacks stuck fast between two trees. I’m sure I mumbled some less than encouraging word, as I helped set them free. Several times I repeated the task. Being trapped between trees did not deterred the high spirits of my two men. They laughed, sometimes they cursed, but they trudged on like two boys on a great mission of discovery.
Whatever shine I had at the onset of this bushwhacking adventure, I lost somewhere between stumbling over twigs and trees, slapped in the face by twigs I didn’t see, and bitten by mosquitoes buzzing around my ears. I swiped at the sweat dripping down my face and c worried. “What happens if one of us breaks a bone?” No response from my leaders. I nurtured my annoyance. They tolerated my pain in the neck grumbling. Realizing my grumblings did nothing to advance my progress, I surrendered and slogged on through the jungle just to get it over with.
When suddenly, one of my fearless men told me to look up. I did. The tops of the trees thinned out to allow light to penetrate into the jungle. I saw the tops of trees instead of toppled trees.
My look at the bright side, son and husband encouraged me. Look ahead, they told me. More light and fewer trees tells us there is a clearing up ahead.
A few moments and stumbles later, we entered a worn path and sunshine. We walked onto flat clearing at the water’s edge. Maybe they said to me, now this is beautiful don’t you think. I had to admit to its beauty. I looked at crystal clear water and surveyed the surrounding mountains cupping the pond in its embrace. I smiled, and maybe I said, wow. Inside, I felt ashamed for complaining throughout the twists and turns of transitioning from the easy
Maybe they said to me, now this is beautiful don’t you think. I had to admit, yes, it was the loveliest campsite on the pond. I smiled. Inside, I felt a bit sorry for not trusting my two leaders throughout the twists and turns of transitioning from the easy path to no path.
Throughout the bushwhacking experience, my husband and son treated me with undeserved grace. Werner’s smile said it all.
Once they set-up the campsite, I listened to their laughter as their fly fishing lines cast an arc through the air. I sketched the scene. The jungle was forgotten. Today, the memory of our hike to East Pond makes me smile. Most of all I remember the beautiful man I shared it with.
Today, the memory of our hike to East Pond makes me smile. Most of all I remember the beautiful man I shared it with.
What I learned bush-wacking around East Pond. Werner never shied away from traversing difficult and unfamiliar territory. I often grumbled to myself when he led me on challenging terrain or up steep trails. When we reached our destination or mountain summit, my grumbling turned to joy and the satisfaction that I did it. He always let me choose the pace. From the day we began our path of our life together, I walked secure beside him, because he had my well-being at heart. He challenged me to work through my fears, and too often my anxious nature.
When we reached the goal together, his smile said it all.