Annie is the one person I have been friends with for close to 40 years. We have known each other since our children were in the 1st and 2nd grades. Even though we have not lived close most of that time, the friendship has endured. Being with her is like coming home. It is so comfortable. We always talk like we see each other every day, only we see each other every few months and rarely talk in between those visits.

On this day we decided to meet at Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC. The home was built in 1838 and Sandburg and his wife Lilian and their youngest daughter, Helga, moved in in 1945. They built 5 miles of trails around the property for Sandburg to wander. The house and property was sold to the park service in 1968, a year after Carl Sandburg died.

“It is necessary now and then for a man (or woman*) to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and ask of himself, “Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?” 

~ Carl Sandburg

We started our hike with a walk around the pond and then out to see the goats that Lilian introduced to the property when she moved there. The billy-goats were feeling friendly this morning. Two came to the fence to be petted, one with a long white beard and the other with big, floppy ears. I think they probably were hoping we would give them some food, but all they got were some pats and head scratches.

The morning air was cool and damp. The leaves and ground were covered with dew, making walking a bit slippery. The birds and frogs were chatting and chirping, welcoming the day.

After our visit to the goats, we took the trail to Glassy Mountain. I had hiked this trail once before with Annie and remembered it being strenuous. It is a short trail, just a mile and half each way to a large, bald rock that looks out over Mount Pisgah, part of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain.  But on this day, I was struggling.

That opened up the conversation about how our bodies are changing and things that we had done easily when we were younger, were not as easy now. And there is more awareness of injury. How we process this awareness impacts how we feel about ourselves. Accepting that we experience exercise or activity differently in our bodies than we once did, does not mean that we stop doing these things. And it does not mean that we beat ourselves about not being as strong or able or flexible or any of the other things we tell ourselves.

As Paul Long said when I interviewed him. “Where attention goes, energy flows.” Shifting our attention to what we enjoy about the activity and how we can enjoy it, will improve the overall experience.

Annie and I love the mountains and we want to get out on the trails as often as possible. I learned that she had been hiking with a friend weekly the last 2 years. This has helped her keep her hiking legs during the pandemic. I have only recently started back hiking, really since this spring. I am working on getting in shape for my trip to Glacier National Park in July. I was disappointed in myself that I was struggling to climb Glassy Mountain and we eventually turned back. Was it the stomach upset I was experiencing that made the climb more difficult? Was it the pace we were keeping or the high humidity? Was it being out of shape and older? Probably all of that. But staying in this mindset of disappointment was taking away my enjoyment of our time in nature and being together.

The mindset shift was to accept the limitations I was feeling this day. This happens. Some days we feel more physically fit and more energized than other days. Acceptance.

My joy came from spending time with my good friend, not getting to the top of the mountain. That will be for another day. I will be back!

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