Surrendering to the unknown and letting go of expectations is a good practice for life. And as this summer would have it, I was continually being thrown opportunities to surrender. Instead of a summer spent in the mountains deep into the backcountry, hiking, backpacking, and climbing as I had hoped, like a raging fire, grief and loss swept fiercely through my life. After spending time in a children’s hospice and attending my cousin’s son's funeral, I had neither the desire nor the energy to travel into the backcountry or plan a vacation. However, as the end of August approached I knew that was exactly what I needed.
Hours before leaving we made the traditional shopping trip to MEC, our premier outdoor store, loaded the SUV with camping and climbing gear, backpacks and prepackaged hiking food, maps, a Hot Springs of Western Canada book, and prepared to hit the road with an open mind. Although the destination was unknown, I knew wherever my feet would land, I was needing to reground and connect to nature, release heaviness and allow fun and freedom to flow.
The summer after my mom died, I experienced the same lack of desire. We had three weeks booked for vacation and days from leaving no plan as to where we were going or what we were doing. Having spent that time in nature- rocking climbing, hiking into a backcountry cabin along the Clear Water river, and exploring Salt Spring Island, it turned out to be one of the best family trips.
Hoping for the same experience (first lesson in not having expectations was missed) we headed west with nothing booked and and only a vague idea of where we we would like to go- the vast wilds of Northern British Columbia. In the past going to such a destination would leave me full of expectations of what kind of trip it would be; it would definitely involve some adventurous outdoor pursuit- mountain biking, rock climbing, scrambling or heading into the wilderness on a long backcountry excursion.
However, we did not rock climb up the face of mountains, spend time deep in the wilderness or make it to the remote islands of Haida Gwaii (our last minute wishful thinking). The trip did not consist of anything particularly grand or adventurous, but rather a collection of small moments strung together like pearls on a necklace; fleeting moments that could go unnoticed, like mist that curls around a mountain valley and dissipates in the blink of an eye, if I were to have fallen completely into the trap of the expected or the desired. Following on the heels of the summer theme, this vacation reminded me of the simple beauty in letting go and allowing things to be as they are.
It was each tiny pearl, from breathing in the scent of the wilderness and gazing at stars, strolling among thousand year old red cedars in the magical Ancient Forest- the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, hiking into a wild beach under a stormy indigo sky, wading among spawning sockeye salmon flickering in sunlight along Willliams Creek, to walking barefoot on stones in a hidden canyon in Jasper National Park, that made this trip what it was perfectly designed to be - an exploration into the unplanned.
And it taught me the very lessons I need at this time. To let go of certainty and embrace the freedom of the unknown, to release the tight grip of expectations, and to not will my way through a charted course, but to let each day- each moment fall delicately into place. Most importantly, it gave me the gift of savouring each precious moment for what is before it disappears like mist curling around emptiness, licking tree tops as it drops into a valley and dissipates into eternity, laughing at the impermanence of it all.