Solitary walks in the woods are where everything makes sense.

This week I was at a conference for work in Skamania county – a rural part of Washington State, on the Columbia River that is the border between Washington and Oregon.  It’s a place where two important trails meet: the Lewis & Clark Trail from east to west that the American explorers took on their journey to the Pacific, and the Pacific Coast Trail that covers 1,000 miles of rugged terrain from southern California north to the Canadian border. (The locals claim to fame is the “Bridge of the Gods” seen in the movie Wild, about Cheryl Strayed’s solo hike of the PCT… it’s just a few minutes away from the photo shown above.)

I was thinking lately about how different my life has become in the past couple of months since I’ve started a new job. I love it… getting to meet new people almost every day, learning so much about technology that it’s almost overwhelming, thinking on a larger business scale instead of a micro level, getting to write and be creative, and come up with new ideas that are often embraced and encouraged by my coworkers (at least, they haven’t yet told me they think I’m completely crazy).

It’s so different than what I was doing just three months ago, traveling through Sweden with no agenda other than singing and climbing mountains. Different language and culture, different activities, using different parts of my brain. Since people in one “life” don’t necessarily know much about my “other” life, it sometimes feels like a completely different reality, traveling from one world to the next, essentially living as two different sides of myself.  It’s disorienting, and can leave one wondering exactly which side is the more “real.”

The conference site faced a stunning landscape of the Columbia River Gorge, and was surrounded by hiking trails. I stole a couple of hours for myself one morning and walked around to explore.  The air was wonderfully crisp and still. I walked down to the river to watch the sun crest over the hills. I walked around a forested lake trail as the sun filtered through the trees, and suddenly something struck me as familiar.

A lake in Skamania county, WA, USA.

Walking alone around the lake, still as glass, reflecting the image of the sun through the trees… it was an image so powerfully similar to one I’d admired in Sweden and had lingered to watch as the light changed. The symmetry of the two lakes on different continents was like two trails coming together – East and West, North and South.  The confluence of two disparate lives, and I could see how they were both true. Both real. Both me.

As I was looking through my photos from Sweden for the one I remembered, I actually found that I’d taken several similar ones where I’d captured the image of sunlight on water, in places all over Sweden. Dalarna, Värmland, Norrland…. it’s no wonder that this image was stored so strongly in my brain. I guess when we go where our heart leads us, we find things that captivate us.

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Sun on the bay at Luleå, northern Sweden.

Sun reflected on the path in front of me. Outside Luleå.

Sun reflected on the path in front of me. Outside Luleå.

Österdalälven near Insjön, Sweden.

Österdalälven near Insjön, Dalarna, Sweden.

Pjätteryd, Småland, Sweden

Out for a row with Dad. Pjätteryd, Småland, Sweden

 

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