We just needed some time outside. Some quiet hours spent among trees and rocks, where the dings of "smart" phones and the glare of computer screens couldn't quite reach us. And we needed to see mountains. Any mountains, so long as the earth rose up to touch sky.
So we went.
We skipped the traffic jams and the gathering around food. We skipped the football games and political arguments. We skipped the time with family and friends. We traded those things, some of which we love, for a dirt road that ended at a trailhead and a path that led up.
It wasn't an impressive hike. Tumbledown Mountain is an absolutely wonderful place with the incredible reward of a stunning mountaintop lake at the top and is one of my very favorite day hikes in Maine. But on this day, the skies were a flat grey, the leaves had fallen, and the snow was a mediocre dusting that only hinted at the winter glory to come.
Our dog, convinced that walking outdoors for more than ten minutes is an act of torture that we concoct solely to inflict pain upon her, wanted no parts of our plans. We put her little booties on her delicate paws, but around the half-mile point, she began to sit down and refuse to walk- she does this when she's decided she's had enough. So we carried her (and by "we" I mean "Justin", of course).
Up we inched, intermittently putting Tessie down to "let" her walk at her crawling pace. There is simply no hurrying this dog, so we let go and slowed down. We looked around. We talked. We dreamed. We made plans. We laughed at our pathetic dog. We paused to watch as the snowflakes began to fall, just a few at a time. We saw no one. We heard no one. Our phones didn't ding or beep or ring. Only the wind and the trees and the little brooks of bubbling, half-frozen water broke the silence surrounding us.
Even carrying her, we were moving too slow to be able to make the short hike to the top and back before darkness fell, so we turned around short of the mountaintop lake on whose banks we'd planned to eat our peanut butter and jelly feast of thanksgiving. But we laughed at our fluffy excuse for a mutt and snuggled her as we walked and held hands as we made our way back down.
Because it was never really the summit or even the lakeside view that we were really after. It was quiet. It was slowing down. It was the beauty found among the trees even in their "ugliest" season. It was uninterrupted time together. It was laughter. It was a break from technology.
It was the moments that carry me through the rest of my days, through the busy-ness and demands of work and life, that we were seeking and it was those moments that we found, once again, at the end of a long dirt road where a trail led upward.