Hiking and Might-Have-Beens – August 17, 2002

I went hiking this morning. It was gray, with light rain falling almost imperceptibly, and clouds had descended over the mountains. Incredibly beautiful, and not like L.A. at all. When I woke up at 6:30 and looked outside, I knew I had to go.

I wasn’t disappointed. Hiking up the dirt path, the air seemed fresher than usual, so that just breathing it was energizing. Vistas that are normally choked with smog were obscured by mist, with only the shapes of trees and mountains and here and there a house on a hill. It was early Saturday morning, so the noise of traffic was muted, and the sound of everything else seemed amplified — birds, wind, something yowling down the mountainside.

The trail I took winds back and forth four times as it ascends, and the sight of mist-cloaked hillsides at every turn was breathtaking. Then I was over and into the valley and along a forested trail, with a few other hikers and their dogs passing by. A swarm of bees hummed loudly at the exit of the trail, where the route descends down a side street lined with secluded mansions, but I moved on quickly and never saw them. A sprinkler arced over the road, soaking the pavement, so I pulled my jacket around me and rushed through it, laughing.

I’ve figured out why I can’t write about bad things as they are happening; it’s a sort of paralysis. It’s not caused by depression or an unwillingness to share, but rather by an inability to choose between the millions of possible paths that spring from the present moment. If I don’t know the outcome of a situation, I find it extremely difficult to talk about it with anyone. I imagine thousands of alternate paths, with different fears and different endings, and some are ridiculous and others horrible and others happy, and there’s just no way to choose between them with any degree of honesty or comfort. On the other hand, once I know the ending, not only can I write about it, I also feel the need to explore the alternate routes, the might-have-beens, in an effort to figure out where I’ve landed.

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