Do not think
“I’ll go as I please!”
when taking a journey.
Rather, think, “I may have some problems.”
and you’ll be free as a bird.
— Yasumi Roan
I finished reading Walking the Kiso Road by William Scott Wilson this morning.
It is his personal guide to walking along this ancient road in central Japan, telling stories about the people he has met, the old inns he stayed in, and the history behind the shrines and temples dispersed through the valley. Throughout his book are countless haikus and quotes from old Japanese poets inspired by the forests and river running through the valley. I found it to be a relaxing, inspiring read, going through it a chapter at a time when I needed a quiet moment to myself.
Yesterday, I took a long walk along the Mission Creek Greenway here in Kelowna. The night before, it had snowed roughly six inches, which made the trail even more snow covered than before. The walk was slower going as my feet slid off the more packed areas into the softer snow, giving me more time to think about the book. It is less a travel guide for the area, and more about showing a way to travel. How to follow your curiosity and explore the stories hidden just around the corner from you. All you need is to take those extra few steps and not be too concerned about the activities of home.
Be present in the moment.
I thought about the journey I took this past year and how his message could be applied1. Not so much the personal trials and errors I had with my failure to pass an exam2, my non-existent dating life, or discovering my inner loop, but more about the places I visited beyond the cities of Vancouver and Whitehorse.
2015 was the year I pushed my body to go up higher hills, cross streams, and walk along steep hillsides to discover what was around that next bend, over the hill, or how far my body could take me. According to RunKeeper, I logged over 200 kms on trails this year. I am guessing that amount is likely closer to 300 kms because I tended to lose GPS signal or killed my battery prematurely. Probably not an impressive amount for someone who routinely runs 5-15 km daily. It is double what I did the previous year, which makes me happy.
Looking over the photographs I have taken over the year, I came across some amazing views and discovered great stories within the area surrounding Kelowna. From the easily accessible tomb marker of Rembler Paul, to the more difficult base of Pinnacle Rock in Dan Gallagher’s old placer mining fields, to the old estate of James Cameron Dun-Waters in Fintry half an hour outside of Kelowna. I explored the many trails of Myra-Bellevue and Okanagan Mountain Provincial Parks, and went along the old wooden trestle bridges of the Kettle Valley railway. Each place has a history written over top of a previous history, and a previous one before that.
And now each place has a new history being written, a new significance for each person that crosses its paths. Paul’s Tomb witnessed people basking in the rays of the sun, picnics, and also a drowning this year. Gallagher’s Canyon has seen cars go over the cliff faces. Fintry was repurposed as an agriculture college and then to a provincial campground. Myra-Bellevue is the place where I almost was bowled over by a deer coming around a bend and another coming out of the brush- neither of us seeing the other, both jumped when confronted. Kettle Valley was home to my daughter’s first encounter with a black bear in the wild (from a safe distance.)
Some of these moments will be lost in time, others remain to be rediscovered.
The important thing is I came across these places and took in what they had to offer me at that moment. It’s part of the reason why I visited them multiple times through the summer. I wanted different experiences crossing the same path or to go down a new path and find out where it led me. When I came across the Buddhist writings and books about mindfulness, I began to understand how to wipe the slate clean when I visited these places and to not carry the daily stress of my life with me. Hiking became a moving meditation for me, a way to rediscover my breath.
Letting the stress go was and still is a challenge. As each day passes, I am learning more about the best ways for me to move on. Reading quiet books like Walking the Kiso Road is one way; walking and hiking another. For my journey through 2016, my goal has been set to log more kilometres in RunKeeper, and continue the search around Kelowna to find more places and experiences that help me let go of what is bothering me and learn to be more present than I have in the past.
Fish are made for water; men are made for the Road. Those who are made for the water immerse themselves totally in ponds and are nourished by them. Those who are made for the Road live carefree and tranquil. Thus it is said, ‘Fish do not think about the water, and men do not worry about the Road or how to walk it.
— Confucius, The Analects