It was a terrible day. You know the kind…nothing earth-shatteringly horrible happened, just a series of irritations one after another that add up to a bad day. It was one of those days where everything I touched just seemed to turn to shit. The dog was sick, the teenager was being especially teenager-ish a rock hit my car and dented it, the mop water spilled all over the floor, I missed an appointment because I got stuck in traffic….you get it.
Daniel had just left for work – our schedules were off this week – so I was on my own for the evening. My first instinct was to put my jammies on, crawl into bed, and pull the covers over my head for a long 12 hour nap. Ignore the world. Then I had one of those moments where you picture the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other….’you could go for a hike? The sunset might be nice tonight,’ says the angel. ‘Nahhhhh,’ the devil chimes in. ‘Give up. Go to bed. It’s not worth the energy.’ The three of us went back and forth for a few minutes and I’m happy to say that the angel won this round. I grabbed my camera and dragged my grouchy feet to my newly dented car and headed up to Upper Bidwell Park, about a five minute drive from home.
How blessed we are to live so close to such an amazing place. Upper Bidwell Park in our little town of Chico, California was established in 1905 through a gift of 2,500 acres to the City of Chico by the prominent Bidwell Family. It is said that this park is the second largest city park after Central Park in New York. This is a lovely place, enjoyed by many recreationists: hikers, mountain bikers, swimmers, dogs, children. If anything was going to change my attitude, maybe a sunset hike in Bidwell would do it?
The sun was beginning its nighttime routine as I headed from the car to the trail head. I would do a short loop, try to think of something positive, and shake off this negative day. Deep breath. I love the warm colors of fall. The golden grasses swayed gently in the breeze and the orang-y sunshine cast a calming glow over the field. I pushed my pace as I climbed the gentle slope up the hill. My heart beat faster, I concentrated on my breathing, and the events of the day began to fade a little.
I reached the top of the hill to find a bike perched against a bench under a hundred-year-old oak tree. The sun’s rays were at the perfect golden angle and I snapped this photo with my camera. It was an idyllic, peaceful, moment and I lingered there, breathing it all in. Maybe that angel was right? This might be helping. It felt good to be distracted by something other than the daily minutiae which really was minor, after all.
The golden colors seemed to change by the minute. I was busy with my camera, lost in my art, hoping to capture even just one or two photos that would convey the peace and warmth that was beginning to take over my soul.
As I hiked, pleasant thoughts began to push out the negative ones. I love the way the oak trees look at sunset; they remind me of lace against a beautiful painting. I love the glow of the fall sunshine. It feels good to be moving! I like the way the dust swirls in little patterns around my boots as I walk.
There were very few hikers out that night. I paused to say hello to a basset hound who immediately answered with a big, ‘rrrroooooof!’ and trotted onward – ears dragging in the dust, nose to the ground – in search of his next treasure. People smiled at me as I walked, my spilled mop water drifting farther and farther into the past with every dusty step I took.
Angel says, ‘Okay, Tanya. Today was a shit show but you’re being a grouch. This is not who you are. Don’t let this stuff get to you! It’s silly. ‘ Devil responds: ‘You deserve to be pissed! It was a shitty day! Don’t let that go so easily.’
Do you ever have these conversations with yourself, or is it just me? In our line of work, this could be considered grounds for hospital admission. I chuckled at the thought and moved on, the first grin of the day lingering on my face.
Walking along the dirt path, I passed by two mountain bikers who had stopped to chat. We smiled and nodded hello and I continued onward.
The path led me back up to Easter Cross to this powerful sight. My faith is strong and I paused for a moment to reflect and appreciate. I spent a few moments in gratitude here, which was the farthest thing from my mind when I began this trek an hour ago.
Heading back down across the field again towards my car, I reached a point where two trails diverged. I stopped for a moment to take it in. The angel chimes in again and says, ‘Here’s the deal, Tanya…you can let stuff make you hard and mean and unloving, or you can shrug it off and move on. Who do you want to be? The bitter one or the kind one? Here’s your chance to make the choice.’ The analogy was not lost on me. I think the devil knew she had him, too, because he remained quite still.
I snapped a few pictures and remembered a favorite Vonnegut quote:
Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.Kurt Vonnegut Jr
I want to be the soft one. I want to be the kind one. I want to be the one who sees the love and beauty and joy, even on the worst days. Though my day hadn’t been the best in my life, it also had not been the worst. I knocked the dust off my hiking boots before hopping back into my car, another moment not lost on me.
Driving home, the last little bit of light reflecting purple in the sky, I thought to myself….I suppose that some days, we all just need a little dirt to cleanse the spirit.