Back when my husband, Gary, was living well with late-stage prostate cancer, we joined a cancer-kicking hike/ snowshoe group. As a result, I have movies in living color of so many burbling, adventurous, life-affirming treks in the Cascades near our home in central Oregon.
After Gary died, the strangest thing happened: All the teams, posses, crews of people who supported us through ten years of cancer and caregiving suddenly morphed into widow support groups.
Earlier this week, I joined up with two of my cancer-kicking (widow support) friends, Mike and Bina, and snow-shoed from Mt. Bachelor out to Todd Lake. A cold and gray-shrouded trek.
Looking out across a frozen Todd Lake (Photo: Mike Gibson)
Had I planned to snowshoe on my own, I probably would have canceled — because it was raining in town, which most likely meant wet snow and poor visibility in the mountains.
Sure enough, a moist, drenching snow fell most of the way out to Todd Lake. And on the return trek, the wind blew freight-train strong through the tall trees, dropping snow bombs on our heads. It was so cold that when we removed our gloves to grab a snack or shoot a photo, it was difficult getting them back on.
Photo: Mike Gibson
Earlier this month, I hiked at Smith Rock. Another damp, foggy hike. It was so cold that I ate my lunch on the drive home. And, as everyone knows, a picnic lunch on a highway isn’t the same as a picnic lunch outdoors overlooking glorious nature.
And then yesterday morning, as I was layering up to hike along the Deschutes River trail, I thought about how much warmer and comfortabler a coffee shop would be and why don’t I just go there instead and finish up a major writing project I’ve been working on?
Return route on the Deschutes River trail
At first glance, one might assess that the treks at Smith Rock, to Todd Lake, and along the Deschutes River were less than successful.
Or were they?
I’ve been thinking how it takes a bit of pluck and tenacity to get off the couch in less-than-desirable circumstances and endeavor to conquer something in nature, or something in ourselves — like, the fear, discouragement, self-pity, hopelessness, depression that can come from a cancer diagnosis or any other devastating news.
I’m reading a book by Chip Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame, entitled Capital Gaines. A natural entrepreneur and risk-taker, he writes:
It’s never too late in your story to take a step away from fear. And the good news is that both optimism and courage are contagious. No hand washing necessary. Simply catch and spread.
I heard no complaints from Mike or Bina on the snowshoe trail. In fact, each of us commented, at one time or another, how much fun this challenging trek was, and how good we felt after conquering it.
Yes, optimism and courage are contagious.
Sitting in warm, comfortable spaces is necessary for doing the paperwork of chasing down our dreams. We need to complete the projects, and hand in our homework, and fill out applications, and meet deadlines, and write business plans, and balance our bank accounts.
And then there are the days we need to stoke up our audacity to step into less-than-desirable spaces — even if it entails rejection letters, or the risk of a failed business, or denied scholarships, or snow bombs falling from tall trees.
Which begs the question: What uncomfortable, brave, gallant thing could you endeavor this week, this month, this year?