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Discovering Synchronicity in the High Sierras

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Do you believe in synchronicity?

Yesterday, I took-off north on Highway 395 from my base in Mammoth Lakes, and headed up the precipitous and adrenaline-inducing Tioga Pass toward Yosemite. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into except, mainly, I wanted escape the July 4th gnarl of traffic and humanity in and around town. I’d gotten this off-the-beaten-track recommendation from a couple of fellas I’d met at Liberty Tavern the night the blues band was playing.

I was delighted to meet them; I’d been lonely, had had a difficult time connecting with anyone in this place that teemed with family vacationers and cliques of extreme sports enthusiasts.

Maybe it was just me, energy was low, road-weary after 7 months living the nomad life. I was crazed by the construction that surrounded me in the in-town condo I’d rented for the month, bulldozers and jackhammers shaking the foundation beneath me, 8 am to 5 pm. I could hardly think straight; and I needed to think. I had to be back in DC at the end of August; I had decisions to make about my house, my business, my life. Was I ready to sell, divest before the market tanked, cut my final strings to my hometown and fully inhabit nomad life?

My fingers were bloodied from biting; I wasn’t sleeping well. I strangely, sadly, pined for home, for solid ground beneath me, the pinewood floors of my Park Road rowhouse, my bedroom in the eves and patio overlooking the back garden. The azaleas would be in early summer bloom about now.

Gratefully, my worries and nostalgia receded into the background as I crunched through the trail of shale along the west bank of Saddlebag Lake, indigo waters spread before me, sparkling in the alpine sun, snow-patched peaks poking into a pastel impressionist sky.

I smiled through the pain that gripped my low lumbar and radiated down my leg, thankful to those strangers, Dan and Kris, for their recommendation. The pain, I was learning on my healing journey, subsided after about the first mile, once the blood got flowing and Caroline My Crooked Spine and I got in rhythm with nature. I'd learned how not to exacerbate the pain with fear of it worsening which, of course, made it worse.

Gradually, the hard, loose rock gave way to a softer dirt path, and my vista of gray and rust shard mounds shifted to open, verdant canyon land.

I stopped in my tracks, mouth agape at the scene before me – show-patched peaks towered over a lush meadow dotted with wildflowers – burst, like fireworks, of fuchsia, purple, red.

Smiling, head-cocked, I squinted across the field beneath the brim of my hat.

I’d been here before!

Airy spaciousness filled my chest as I opened my arms and let gravity draw me down, off the Saddlebag trail, into the canyon, hopping sinuous streams that riddled the field and flowed into an oval jade-green lake.

Pausing at a babbling brook, I squatted down in the boggy grass and dipped my hand in the icy stream, then fingered the fiery red bristle of an Indian paintbrush that grew on the banks

I’d been here before – in my imagination – in poetry!

Back in December, just a month into my journey, I stopped at my brother’s in Austin to celebrate Christmas. Around that time, I received my poetry prompt from Kite Kirkman, editor of Tales from the Trail.

My assignment was to watch the video montage and compose a poem evoked by the images. Then, I was to submit my poem to the editor who would accept, reject, or provide feedback to sharpen the poem. Once the verse was final, he and his team would synchronize the narrated poem to the images and music to create an integrated piece to be published on YouTube.

I enjoyed the footage of wildflowers dancing in the wind somewhere, apparently, in a canyon in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I’d never visited the place nor seen flowers like those. I invoked Google them to discover their names, matching the video images to pictures in Google’s library, to lend specificity and authenticity to my poem.

Still feeling quite distant from my subject, and amidst the family Christmas fervor, I pushed through completion of a draft of the poem; I knew it wasn’t quite there yet. The editor didn't outright reject it, but sent me some comments; and I let the project go dormant a while, awaiting inspiration.

Then, the it came, in a place called Capitol Reef, Utah, where I found a book on the shelf of my motel about plant life of the high desert – about species that survived and thrived despite, perhaps because of, the extreme and harsh conditions.

“Unlike humans,” the author wrote, and I paraphrase, “the option to move is not one these plants enjoy.” That sparked something as I thought of those quivering wildflowers in the videos. Excitedly, I got back to work on the poem and submitted my final version to the editor.

He loved it!

'High Sierra Synchronicity' was published in May, before my trip to Mammoth Lakes, most certainly before my day-trip to Twenty Lakes Basin, most certainly before plans for this leg of my trip were even a seed in the wildflower field of my mind.

Back to the trail, the real trail, through the canyon and up the creek in Twenty Lakes Basin, up at 10 thousand feet. The sun had moved to the west, by then, shining in my eyes as I climbed the granite rock face.

Breath panting, with a bit of scrambling, and some guidance from another couple on the trail, I got to the top of the waterfall, gleefully grabbing a fistful of snow from a patch beside me and hurling it over the falls. I felt my heart pound through my vest as I gazed across the expanse of the canyon, smiling, water rushing and gushing, into the lake below.

“I have been here before, to this very place, in my imagination, in my poetry,” I marveled to myself. “This place is Greenstone Lake!”

I felt chills run up my sweaty, strong, crooked spine as a wind gust blew through the pines and swayed the lavender lupine.

Do you believe in synchronicity, in that Divine Guide within us?

I do, now! She's been with me all along.

And NOW it was time to make tracks back to the trailhead. I had a July 4th party to attend. Dan and Kris, my Divine Guide accessories, had invited me.

That is High Sierra Synchronicity.

PS Please follow Kite's Tales from the Trail and consider taking part in the video-poetry challenge!

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