Fairy Falls · Unnamed tributary · Wahkeena Creek · Columbia River Gorge · Bridal Veil · Oregon · USA
Sunlight breaks through the cloud cover on an unexpectedly un-rainy Mother's Day hike with (who else?) Mom. It was a semi-impromptu run to the Gorge, not quite knowing where to go at the start of the day for some quick exercise but also knowing that regardless of the occasion, my mom will happily have me take her on a hike over any material gift any day of the year.
The fast-paced outing was helpful in more ways than one: Aside from the opportunity to get some much-needed exercise in an unrelentingly work-dominated personal schedule, it allowed us to make it all the way back to the other side of the Tualatin Mountains (better known to the locals as the West Hills) in time to join my wife Ashley on her lunch break. We parked outside of the hospital ER where she works and walked across to the outdoor mall and Ma Now, a favored place for Thai savories on the far west side of town. (Hey--I just now noticed the symmetry there with the restaurant’s name… :D )
Even though the calendar (and every other commercial on TV and radio) reminded us that it was Mother's Day, I couldn't help feeling like the day was specially tailored to me instead: A gorgeous hike with unexpectedly good weather and lunch with the two most beautiful and important women in my life? I couldn’t have asked for anything more in those moments other than more time, and there was the smallest part of me that felt a little guilty for what seemed like an unmerited indulgence on a day for honoring mothers everywhere.
A recent ‘humblebrag’ I saw on social media from a photographer got me thinking about that day’s events even more (always dangerous, I know...Lock your doors...). Some people choose to advertise their grandiose exploits and extol their own accomplishments, and that's fine for them if they require regular accolades from without to keep their internal vessels sustained. Touching soil in all seven continents, for example, is no doubt a darned cool feat, but quite frankly, couldn't anyone with a little bit of money and time do that? Me, I'm far more interested in the origins of what it took to afford someone the opportunity to travel so much in the first place. Who helped get you there?...not from a simple transportational perspective but from a historical one? In other words, who made you you? What sacrifices and hardships did they have to endure to coax doors open for you or at least usher you from one threshold to the next?
I'm of a very different breed, I suppose, and I fully admit that. Maybe it's my Buddhist heritage. Maybe it's my consternation with the ‘look-at-me/me-first’ global ethos that seems to be gaining momentum over the past decade or two while leaving humility, respect, and all sense of strong community ties tattered in its wake. Or maybe it's the simple act of imagining what it must have been like to be uprooted from one’s homeland while three months pregnant and face the prospects of never being able to return, with certain death being the alternative. Just knowing a mere fraction of what it took over the years for my mother (and father and brother) to bring me to this point in life and be able to deliver me fully formed and unharmed to the doorstep of a life partner I never could have dreamed into being is more than enough...far more than I deserve or have earned.
I've stepped foot on other continents, mind you, but it far from defines the arc of a what I hope will eventually be consider an accomplished life. For me, contentedness starts at home, and the privilege for me isn't about getting on a plane to go somewhere else, but in being given solid ground and grounding on which to step forward wherever my path may take me...even if it's on a hike I've done probably two dozen times before, and especially so if it's in the company of a beloved soul like my mom.
Any notion of accomplishment, therefore, will be defined not by the rubber stamps in my passport but in the legacy of what I leave behind. Maybe you'll hear about it sometime in the decades to come.
Or maybe you won't.
However it turns out, I'll rest easy knowing that it won't be without due merit--nothing less, and, just as importantly to me, nothing more.