Saturday, July 07, 2007

Return to cripple valley

I did a great hike today with friends on the Dan Moller trail. As we ambled up the long and narrow strip of wooden planks, the seasons changed with each mile. The full bloom of summer faded into the stunted grass of late spring, which regressed into the skunk cabbage and mud of early spring. By the time we reached the cabin, we were clawing through petrified snow drifts. Somewhere beyond there, winter still lingers. But no matter where I am on the Dan Moller trail, winter is all I see.

The Dan Moller trail is one of those places that represents an abrupt hiccup in my life. For some reason, the remnants of emotions and memories from most of my personal upheavals come to rest on very specific places. There's a park in Salt Lake City that I couldn't bear to walk through for years after one of my first boyfriends broke up with me. My early frustrations with Juneau always come flooding back when I pass Mendenhall Lake campsite No. 5. And now, I can't walk up the Dan Moller trail without thinking about all the painful steps I took through the packed snow earlier this year.

It feels strange, because I didn't think this trail ... this experience ... would haunt me. It probably shouldn't. But it does. There was a time in March and April when I hobbled up the Dan Moller trail two or three days a week, just to get out, because I went so stir crazy sitting inside. Now, I look over my shoulder to a faintly familiar valley shrouded in heavy clouds, and I think about how far I've come. I think about how far I have left to go. I think about how everything's changed. I think about how the landscape looks the same. I think about never having to go back to last winter. I think about the ways it still blocks my path. I tromp through yet another snowfield, and I think about never completely escaping.

As I was leaving work this evening, I caught a rare glimpse of the sunset. People were stopped on the bridge, just standing there, watching it. What makes sunset so stunning some evenings, so mundane others? Maybe it's because an experience can never be defined by its place in time and space. Experience doesn't have to be attached to anything. Experience just ... is.