I just recently lost the last of four toenails that rammed the front of my hiking boots for 20 miles while trekking in and out of Haleakala Crater. That adventure took place some four-and-a-half months ago. I’d purchased new hiking boots—going up a full shoe size—earlier in the year and put plenty on miles on them, but I didn’t know to tighten your shoe laces on the downhill and loosen them on the uphill. Apparently, that’s the trick to keeping toenails. Now, I’ve backpacked through half a dozen national parks and umpteen national wildlife refuges, national forests and wilderness areas. Not to mention local hiking trails, fields and parks. I am about to celebrate a half century on this earth. And I never knew that hiking tip before, proving there’s always something new in this world to discover.
One of my favorite photographs from the year was taken at sunset on the beach, and no, the image is not of a setting sun over the ocean. (Although there is one of those, too.) No, I’m thinking of the picture that I took when I turned my back on the sun. What I discovered was the beautiful evening light embracing three hula practitioners who were dancing along the waterline, their reflections shimmering in the retreating surf.
What I discovered in this experience is the importance of turning around. Yes, move forward in the direction of your dreams, keep your eye on the prize and all that. But stop periodically to look back.
We have only a few days left of 2012, and so I am reflecting.
I could list here those top 10 blog posts for 2012, based on analytical data that tells me which posts got the most page views. And I’ve done that in prior years. But this time, I decided to re-read all my blog posts for 2012 and make a list of those events, people and experiences that made an indelible mark on me in some way.
So, in addition to discovering what it’s like to lose toenails for the first time in my life, I also:
1. Visited Kalaupapa Peninsula on the island of Molokai
. This was an adventure—mule ride down a cliff!—and history lesson in one. The tour of Kalaupapa serves as its own kind of reflection--on humanity, both the good and less-than-good sides.
2. Rescued a lost cat
and reunited it with its owner at the beginning of the year and helped find a home for a shelter dog
at the end of the year.
3. Adopted a plant-based diet
. I have never before done something in my life that has transformed my health for the better. Until this.
4. Read Paddling my Own Canoe by Audrey Sutherland
and re-kindled my passion for time in nature. And I’m not just talking about taking a walk on the beach. I also stalked a 90-year-old woman. But we don’t need to elaborate on that.
5. Spent a day at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
. I have many feelings and emotions from this visit, many of which reside below the level of consciousness, thoughts I haven’t been able to catch and wrap words around yet. But I distinctly remember crouching to walk through a doorway in the USS Bowfin. I remember my eyes taking in the submarine’s innards and wondering how in the heck the antique survived hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean. Bravery. Courage. Luck. Those are the qualities I figure the men who served on our country’s earliest submarines possessed.
6. Flew to Oahu to hear the Dalai Lama speak
. He’s as cute as he looks in all the pictures. And funny. And smart. And so comfortable in life. (Or, at least, on stage in Hawaii, surrounded by hula dancing children.) Months later, after recently attending the Honolulu performance of Wicked, I think about the question presented in the musical: Are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? Now, as I write this, in thinking about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a man who was born Tenzin Gyatso in northeastern Tibet and told he was the 14th reincarnation of Tibet’s patron saint, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, I think about the flip-side to the question posed in Wicked. Are people born with greatness? Or do they have greatness thrust upon them? And what would our world be like if we told all the babies they were funny and smart and holy from the time they were born?
7. Hiked. I hiked the Alakai Swamp Trail on Kauai
, the Kuliouou Trail on Oahu
and the Halemauamau Trail on Hawaii (Big) Island
. And, then, I hiked into the crater known as Haleakala on Maui
. It was a long hike. It was steep. It rained. I eventually lost four toenails, as a result. And I loved it.
8. Flew back to Molokai and attended a photo workshop with Rik Cooke, Dewitt Jones and Jack Davis
. In reviewing this list, I smile at many of the experiences. I nod my head as I read my words about them. But, truth be told, I needed a little prodding to remember most of them. Not so with my end-of-the-year trip to Molokai. This week-long experience inspired me in a profound way.
What about you? Have you reflected on where you’ve been, what you’ve learned and who you’ve met in 2012? I encourage you to do so. We’ll get to the New Year’s resolutions later. For now, allow yourself time to reflect, to look back, to remember. It’s a fascinating exercise.