A few days past a full year before Grace and I were engaged in January 2019 at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, I was visiting the Bay Area hiking the Marin Headlands by myself in Sausalito. I had not even met Grace yet which goes to show you quickly life can change. Hiking that day, I was inspired by everything around me, partly because it brought back so many memories of when this was a daily adventure I was blessed to live, and partly because this was no longer my daily norm. So I wrote this…
13 January 2018
As the sun rose early this morning in Sausalito to streaks of orange, and later cascaded its glow to the hills of Mill Valley while staring at Mount Tamalpais, I set outside to embark upon my hike. I wasn’t even to the entry point of the trailhead when I began to huff and puff. I had committed myself to a long hike and within five minutes there were already very visible signs of being out of shape. Chicago and the holiday season had added several pounds, and it was more noticeable today than days of previous recent past. I wasn’t happy with that but nevertheless owned the fact I had indeed contributed to most, if not all, of it. A guttural caw interrupted my musings from the raven circling overhead, ordering me to bugger on. And so I did. The morning clouds highlighted a dreamy, ethereal quality on this dawn, one I would appreciate and enjoy throughout the first half of my hike.
I had beat the crowd, alone and all by myself, exactly the way I wanted it. I had come to a place in my life that I oftentimes preferred the company of me, having conversations with myself, Taylor and God. Taylor was 2,000 miles away, but I certainly felt God’s presence along the Alta Trail where He was present in all of nature. There was a stretch of days spanning months on separate occasions over two years when Taylor and I would hike this trail at least two plus miles, sometimes five or six. I learned more about myself in my communion with nature during those days than I ever had till that point in my life; though I was certain till then that I had already learned much. In those days, I learned — among many other things — that I had much to learn. Taylor always contributed to my thoughts as well. My capacity to love also grew during those hikes. I’d be very intentional about who I was thinking of and why, what was it about them for which I was so grateful, what were the qualities that made them so heroic. My heart would swell and my gratitude journal would fill up. I would also think about those that didn’t have anyone, that potentially needed me, or at the very least needed someone. What could I do to help? A red-tailed hawk soared above me, so majestic in its singular focus encircling it’s unsuspecting prey. My prey would always be those opportunities where I could learn and where I could help, when and who. In this very moment, I felt like the hawk staring down on me. We understood each other.
This was the Bay Area I loved. For years when I would visit Tad while he was living here, San Francisco was a magical place. Tad embodied everything that I loved about the Bay Area. With every visit, I would be sad to leave and excited to come back. After twenty years, leaving Chicago for the Bay, never did I think almost five years ago that I would not be living in San Francisco. Housing in the city had become increasingly more difficult and extremely expensive. Apparently, Taylor and I would find out if apartments even allowed dogs that there would be a 35 lb weight limit. His head alone was 35 lbs. And so it was that Taylor and I were forcedto move to Sausalito, and live on top of the hill, a hill three miles on a trail from where I was standing at this very moment. Little did I know then that I would meet some very important people in my life, people I would come to love — friends. Seena would come into my life after moving there. Ben & Sarah would come into my life afterwards. Sausalito was the consolation prize to San Francisco. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones forced into your life, the places where you live and the people you meet along that journey.
Those thoughts and many others swirled around my head as my head turned on a swivel. To the left from the rock I was standing on, was Sausalito. To my right, San Francisco. Before me, there was Belvedere and Angel Island. To the far distance, I could see Oakland. Behind me, of course, were the eucalyptus trees and the Marin Headlands. I could have stood here forever.
I was running behind, as I decided to head back. Running behind was the consistent commentary to my life. I’ve known for a long time that as long as I live my life intentionally that I will always have a hard time leaving those intentional moments. The hardest thing to do is to leave a moment filled with love. The only way to do it is to have another moment of love to look forward to. I was to meet Ben and Sarah for brunch, and still had a flight to catch. I had wanted to visit Fernwood Cemetery, and a specific tombstone that Taylor visited a couple years prior, the day after Tucker passed away in Marietta, GA. Pressed for time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to.
And so that was that. It was kismet. Whether I had the time or not, I had to visit Fernwood Cemetery. The Universe had commanded me. And so I did. After saying goodbye to Greta, I climbed the hill. I went down the other side of the hill. Then down the steep steps to face the large Hindu statue that stood guard over the cemetery. And I walked right over to the tombstone that meant so much to me. “Georgia: May the Energy of Your Soul Shine Forth”. And of course, I thought of Taylor and I thought of Derek & Tucker. Two years ago, though twenty-five hundred miles apart, Taylor had known that Tucker had gone to heaven. So we paid our respects then much like I did now.
With a deep breath, I took one last look before making my way back.
I would wonder if I would make my flight that afternoon on my hike back. Whether I did or did not didn’t seem to matter much to me at that moment.
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ALWAYS BE EPIC.