Two weeks ago on Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I signed up for yet another hike with the Atlanta Outdoor Club, which claims several thousand members. The drill is this: an email pops up describing an activity, its location, its duration, and most important its degree of difficulty: easy, moderate, and you’ve got to be kidding. A time is set for online signups, and we have learned that if we don’t do it right away, we lose out. From the outset, in other words, they are a challenge and a competition.
We had missed out on one. It filled up 45 minutes after it opened, while we enjoyed a favorite TV show. We snagged this other, described as a D-2, easy to moderate, with time to take pictures, enjoy the setting, which was a previously unknown to us forest in the outer suburbs, part of the Chattahoochee National Wilderness area. Picture Southern pines, sweet gum, wild magnolias, mulberries, poison ivy. Picture the gentle currents and sand bars of the river.
Not that we could describe them based on what from the outset was yet another fast jog over ill-kempt trails, an obstacle course of badly maintained steps, loose branches, and slippery rocks. Visualize instead a group of people standing around impatiently waiting for the starting gun (metaphorically, perhaps). Sharing our names but nothing else. One of the participants in his tight running shorts and expensive climbing shoes complaining that there were too many older people — talking about the dance he had gone to the night before in the company of a hot younger date.
And then there was me, stopping a few minutes into the hike to tie a shoe, causing us to fall so far behind that we could not see the last other person in the group, nearly giving up on keeping up so early on. Running to keep up, finally shouting that I was sorry I had lagged, but the shoelace called — and the group begrudgingly stopped, momentarily.
Followed shortly by a conversation with the white-haired guy leaning on a walking stick who told me he had a gun carry permit, a weapon he took with him and would use if he felt threatened by dogs on his neighborhood walk. And the woman who complained about the snakes sunning on stones and wriggling in the water — dangerous to her, shouldn’t be there. And the leader bragging on bear killing.
On a trail described as having ONE hill, there were more than several, leading me to name them “elevations.” On a hike described as laid back, there was almost no time to pause, no time to take pictures, barely enough to take a sip of water. There was no use arguing with the trail leader. He could not be persuaded that the advertisement did not match the reality of what was yet another high speed hike — taken not to experience our presence in the presence of a larger natural world — not to learn the names of chipping birds, or late spring blooming wildflowers. No, it was yet another opportunity to use the setting as a means to clock mileage, speed, dexterity.
That same weekend I read in a book by a well – known memoirist and creativity coach about her first efforts at a regular writing practice. Before she wrote a word (working up to regular hours each day), she went out and purchased a ream of plain white paper and a box of fast pens.
Fast pens. I had never heard of these. I Googled the phrase and learned that there are many brands touting their ease of use — how smoothly and quickly one could literally write with them, as opposed to clunky ones, that impede our ability to make our fingers fly.
Fast hikes. Slow pens.
Slow hikes. Fast pens.
It’s all about choosing the way we move in this glorious June, and how we capture it.