In my effort to maintain sobriety, it has often been necessary to find time to be alone, away from the perceived and actual craziness that is life. For when things become too crazy there can come the sense of hopelessness. And if this is not tended to, an apathy can settle in that makes relapse easy. Being a loner can have its own curses, though. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate people and relationships; I do. I treasure them. But there comes a time when it’s necessary to be away and in solitude.
Long walks can offer a respite of sorts where things can be pondered, but they can also offer a time when things can be forgotten. To some it may seem like another form of escapism. And perhaps an element of it is, but it is more than that. It is an essential part of well-being. And long walks are as therapeutic spiritually as they are physically.
The valley is deep and not very wide where the waters of Clear Creek come down out of the Big Horn mountains. So much of the surrounding lands are harsh with scant rainfall, where sparse grasses and sagebrush grow and trees are few and far between, sometimes miles apart. The air is fresh with pine, and the trees hold the humidity of the mountain stream in the narrow deep valley, creating a heavy but vigorous scent. The sound in the valley is loud, as the waters crash and roar along and through the boulder-strewn stream bed.
I follow the trail that leads down to the stream and beside it along the white roaring waters. It is not an easy trail. It is in a boulder conglomerate that deeply covers the valley floor, past evidence of stream deposits and signs of glacier activity from millennia ago. The trail follows the edge of the stream, along and through the rounded rocks and sands of the boulder conglomerate, upward beside the white waters.
The stream begins higher up in the mountains, meltwaters from past snowfall. It can’t be known whether the snows fell gently and peacefully or if it was part of a blustering storm. But here in this place the waters roar through the boulders of the valley. There is a clearing around a bend of the stream. And there is a rock, a cold rock to sit on, but a vantage point to rest briefly and ponder and observe. Much as the stream is dynamic and ever changing, so it is with the world and life.
I wonder how life got so crazy, with the destruction of alcohol and its harrowing clutches. The past and its suffering remains with me; it never goes away. I’m dealing with the parts of the past that I can, but most importantly, I’m also dealing with the present. How good it feels to be sober today, here and now.
What a wonder-filled and interconnected world God has created. The blustering storms of the past have made these clear cold waters where, if I look closely, I can make out shadows of trout in the river. Mule deer don’t notice me sitting on this rock as they came to drink from the waters. Small birds, songbirds, flit about, though I can barely hear them. And below, the mountain stream roars through the deep and narrow valley.
It is a place to wonder. It offers a time to be away from it all and yet to be a part of it all. It is refreshing and invigorating. And somehow I carry it with me after I leave, a memory of the heavy scent of pine, the roar and the whiteness of the waters, the coldness of the rock I sat on to watch it all.
The journey of life is long and at times difficult, but it’s not without its own beauty and solace.
Bob lives on the high plains of Wyoming. He is a cradle Catholic, a geologist by training, and consummate wanderer of the backroads with camera and guitar. And with an ongoing struggle with alcohol, he has found relief in a 12-step program and his Catholic faith.