I was fifteen when I first discovered the power of the journey itself versus reaching the desired destination. Nature was my teacher for this important lesson. More specifically, the dramatic and beautiful landscape of Snowdonia National Park.
I reflected on this magical experience six months later in February 1991 just after I had turned sixteen in writing a short essay called, The Grass is Green Enough on this Side. I recently unearthed this powerful reflection of nature, gratitude and personal growth and thought it fitting for my focus today. This is what I wrote.
The Grass is Green Enough on this Side February 1991
In the summer of 1990, I spent four days in Wales with a close friend. We drove across the countryside, from the wilderness of the undergrowth to the bleakness of the bare rocks on the mountains. We stayed at a couple of youth hostels and set off early each day extracting for ourselves some uncaptured sights that still remain in my mind now. The sun was in its youthful bloom and favoured our stay.
On the quiet walks we made together, we found new truths about ourselves which would perhaps have remained unrevealed if we hadn’t embarked on our trip. The softness of the green in the surroundings that we faced complimented our own sweet youth and purity. The swift-flowing, clear waters freshened many thoughts, took away any problems, falsehoods and greed.
The natural and the growing feeling of the world was felt upon my face and I felt enriched in the luxury of the peace. The contrast of my own real world was larger than any words or imagery could convey but I didn’t let the feeling of want affect me. The waters I looked into were cold in touch but warm in image, reflecting not only my body but my nature and thoughts. I knew I wasn’t alone. Time passed us quickly, as did other tourists on the roads as they hunted not for peace but for entertainment. They wanted fulfilment in a different way from us.
As the day grew late, we grew tired. The youth hostel passively watched hundreds come and go never refusing anyone. It is a place where all are welcome, a place of friendship. The people we met there were not to be forgotten. They had stories to share, not forcefully but naturally. The atmosphere was unrestrained and gentle, no selfishness nor stupidity but strength and intelligence.
The day when all my attitudes, opinions and awareness were settled was when I made my walk across the mountains. Undisturbed, yet many crossed their paths. Along with my friend, we were both unaware of the thought needed to pursue our climb. The path was well-illustrated, not by signs but by feet, those who had trodden these steps before us.
My expectations were little at first as the steady uphill strain was not a threat to my youth. I knew not what was to come. My fear of heights was overcome by the thrill of conquering a piece of beautiful nature. As we came to a halt we had a choice of two tracks. Whether a sense of stupidity or mere obstinacy overruled I can’t remember but we decided to go along the ridge. Expectations of a wide, grassy plateau swept through my mind but was soon disregarded when I found myself surrounded by experts climbing steep rock faces and treading softly. I was unprepared for what was to come in my sweatshirt, shorts and flimsy deck shoes. I climbed all set out in front of me. My friend following closely.
We latched onto a group who had some knowledge about mountain climbing and they helped us combat our fate. On the spending of an hour along a few yards shows how scared and slow my feet were in comparison with my heart and mind which had climbed the mountain several times over.
My geographical knowledge helped me to understand the importance of my treads; scree was not a good footing. The views were so spectacular that the coast was visible. The rock was barren showing age and experience. Helicopters were a common feature and the excitement, fears mixed with compassion for the surroundings was overwhelming. Sensitivity played a huge part in this time of my life. The responsibility that I was holding was so great the size and bleakness of the mountain could not envisage.
The scenery became more compelling that my role as a fearful climber. Several hours passed before we stepped away from the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch. We reached the summit plagued by tourists and cloud. Throughout our whole climb we had heard the distant haul of the train as it took hundreds of cheating tourists to the top. They paid for a view that was clouded by vulgarity. I, for free, had encountered many experiences on my journey. I was exhausted but had kept going for not only had my adrenalin been pumping furiously but my will power had been stronger than any other desire I had ever felt.
On the descent we took the less difficult way; the Pyg Track which merged into the Miners’ Track. The cloud of greed disappeared as we slowly strolled down a steep cutting in the mountain. We passed rocks by the thousands, embedding our memories and thoughts deeply into them all. The surroundings became less barren, the grass was rich in colour and the deep, black, cold corrie lakes, full of natural water sparkled as the sun used them as a mirror. Disused mines were not barricaded but open. Our instinct beckoned us towards them but it was too dangerous to perceive entering.
There were signs all over the wilderness of friends unknown to me, disused tracks and old stone farms inhabited by sheep and flowers. As I walked back to the car, the countryside looked unhappy. The litter and vandalism destroyed its beauty.
The experience and courage I had felt was the start of a new life and the role of a human became less important to me than the naturalness of the habitat I live in. My friend and I had enjoyed our new shared experience and to this day and further on in many days to come I will never forget my journey; its courage and knowledge that it created turned one blossoming, lonely child into a strong, young woman.
As I had started the climb the mountain on that trip, my initial focus had been to simply reach the top of Snowdon. I didn’t realise the personal journey of growth I would subsequently encounter. The journey taught me much about myself and the purpose of life.
What did I learn about the importance of this journey?
I learned that I needed help, support and knowledge to reach my destination and that it was ok to ask for help. I learned that collaboration was key. I learned to be grateful for what I had and not for what I lacked. I learned that despite the journey throwing many unforeseen obstacles in my way that I had a choice in how I responded.
I learned I had to be present and focus only on my next step, then the next one to reach my destination. I learned to celebrate every little win. I learned to appreciate my environment. I learned to respect the weather. I learned who I needed to be and what I needed to do.
How about you? Do you have a particular journey that taught you a lot about life and yourself?
Focus on Journeys!
ACTION POINT - Don’t turn your back on your past. There are often many lessons to be relearned.