It’s that “penny in the pocket” thing again

The last several weeks, I’ve been having the most vivid dreams of people I don’t see anymore, people I miss, who I made mistakes with, or who represent times I desperately wish to get back. The dreams are so real. I can feel these people again, hold them tightly and tell them how much I’ve missed them. Though they always feel differently than I remember and I remark that in the dream, there’s so much comfort in having that long-wished-for chance to see them again and patch up the hole their loss has left.

Inevitably, some small detail will alert me unexpectedly that the whole thing is a dream. Just now, it was a location change, a move from a blurry and inconsequential amalgamation of several places I’ve lived to a distinct place, the Ray’s grocery store in my hometown. Without warning, I became aware of the meat section being in the wrong place (it was at the front of the store, where the wine is in reality) and, in a blink, it was all gone and the hole left behind is swallowing me up all over again.

And, here it is 3 a.m. and there’s nothing left save the deep sound of Barley breathing, and he’s 11 and I’m 33.

That “hiker’s glow” might just be my rosacea

Climbing up Mt. Si a few weeks ago, I noticed that the people who seem to have the easiest time of that 4-mile slog straight uphill are beautiful, fit, cheerful people with bright smiles and genuine enthusiasm for life. I wouldn’t mind being one of those people. So, I decided to take hiking a bit more seriously and work on getting much, much fitter (assuming, of course, that cheerfulness is a natural consequence of looking like those smiling, flannel people in LL Bean catalogs).

Mt. McLaughlin is a tough hike. Here's the view of the top from about a mile down.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough few weeks. Frankly, I don’t know how everyone is so cheerful when their feet feel like they’re held together with fraying rubber bands. Between the creaking knees, the toes that don’t want to bend anymore, and the burning lungs, I suspect my smile looks more like I’m getting ready to be hit in the face with a water balloon. But, at least I’m out there, right?

And, it seems I’ve been way out there lately.

Betsy and I hiked Mt. McLoughlin on Sunday. It was so much more difficult than I remembered. It was hot and dusty, and I seriously thought I was going to pass out, while barfing, on the way up. Is it possible that increased exercise can put someone into worse shape? I suspect that’s what’s happening. My body is reacting violently and more quickly to intense exercise. It’s very frustrating.

Nevertheless, we made it as far as we like to go (the last mile to the top is way too scary, so we climb only as far as the trail is easily visible and not perilously close to certain death). The only casualties were my horribly inadequate lungs, my rubber band feet, and a mysterious rash on the tops of both shoulders. Not too bad considering last time I took a tumble and left the mountain with a bloody knee.

This was my view from the top of Mt. Si on Sept. 2.

Then, yesterday, I took my second trip up Mt. Si here in Washington. It was a beautiful day, but the hike was even more difficult than I remembered. (Are you catching the theme here?) I made it to the top, but I don’t think I had as radiant a smile as I’d hoped. In fact, when I glanced in the rearview mirror back at the trailhead afterwards, I literally gasped. I pity all the happy hikers who had to greet me along the path. I should wear a big button on my chest that says, “I don’t look this bad all the time” or “I’m not a shaved bigfoot, despite appearances to the contrary.” I think I even scared a toy fox terrier.

In about a week, Betsy and I will be heading up Mount St. Helens. These other hikes have simply been warmups for that hike, which will be tough, I’m sure. This will be a first for both of us and, personally, I’m looking at it with a mix of dread and excitement. I want to do well and not be miserable. Plus, I want to get a really good picture of us both at the top, smiling, radiant, and cheerful.

Then, I want a Blizzard and a massage, which may be the real secrets behind the happy hiker glow.