Do you remember learning about perspective as a child? In second or third grade, we did an art project in which we created the illusion of depth. The foreground front and center (usually a glamorous stick drawing of me), a horizon line, and then finally something lingering in the background (a mountain or ocean--something big and vast). It looked like this...I give you my beach scene (imagine the Clash blaring from that boom box. They were my favorite at the time):
This last week, the Saunders Wilson posse vacationed in Southern Oregon. Most of Oregon seems to be up in flames at the moment, smoldering the air and creating a heavy haze. I was reminded of the haziness of that background layer of my second grade art project, carefully obscured by tissue paper for added depth. Every time I attempted to find my mountains, the deep lapis pool at Crater Lake, or the other side of the lake where we were staying, a wall of smoke obscured my view. I knew they were there and the eye so desperately wanted to define their shapes, but it wasn't meant to be.
So we looked closer. Much closer. There wasn't a trail left unexplored by foot or by bike (those poor bikes received a beating this week. Specialized, we have officially QA'd for you.) We threw ourselves down long gravel descents and were rewarded by the bike gods with sprawling waterfalls, butterflies, and rocks to climb. We spied glorious rock formations from the car, which meant slamming on the brakes, hopping a fence, and finding a tributary to the Rogue River snaking through ancient lava deposits. We didn't need the big picture. We had layers and layers of beauty and adventure directly before us.
It can be so easy to only consider the big picture stuff: what does success look like? am I creating the best life possible for my kids? will my daughter go to Harvard or Yale (the answer is both), am I on the right track? etc. All good questions to noodle, but at the core of it, so often we miss the details along the way that help us define our true interests that shape who we are and help us appreciate just how special our time is.
A week ago, I attempted a 200 mile bike race, the Swift Summit 200. I'd like to point out that 200 miles is kinda a long way especially when it's all uphill (joke Trevor...only 99% of it was uphill). With a 5 am start time, we initially rode with only our headlights casting sparse light and trusting our skills to navigate any potholes or road debris. If this scene was my second grade art project, we were barely scratching the surface of the foreground--only cognizant of our frozen fingers tapping gears and the rhythm of our pedal strokes. In the hours to follow, this endeavor was no longer about 200 miles. Instead, it was getting up and/or around the next bend, wondering what was at the top of a climb or if I was going to make it down the loose gravel. I needed to break it down--ten miles at a time; sometimes twelve inches at a time. But all the time, taking in the color, sounds, the feeling of flying, and the sharpness of my thoughts. I pushed away all big picture stuff and any thought that wasn't about that moment in time. Heat exhaustion and nausea forced me out prematurely at approximately mile 120. Even though my poor bike was covered in vomit, I still felt like I had the ride of my life. I wouldn't have changed a thing--and that 200 mile goal? I'll get it next year.
I can't rid myself of the big picture nor do I want to. But I can make sure I don't lose track of the details that make this time and space so interesting...that when my daughter or nephew ask about that mountain in the distance, I say "yeah, it's over there, but have you seen this rad trail?"