Friday, September 16, 2011

Cirquel in the Sky

Cirquel in the Sky
18" X 24"
Acrylic on Canvas

This is the canvas that was so wonderful to paint on that I fell in love with it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010: I was one big ball of nerves; spaghetti stomach with worms. I was only a day away from the biggest undertaking in my life, hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney.

What if I trip and fall and break something? What if I get sick? What if something happens to one of the guys? My Clint? My imagination played out dozens of horrific scenarios on the theatre screen in my head. There was scary crescendo music like the kind you hear right before something terrible happens (yes, my life has an ongoing soundtrack that only I can hear).

At some point, my brain and body became exhausted from all the worrying. I tilted, like an old pinball machine that's been jiggled just a little too vigorously. My lights went out and the flipper bars went dead. I could no longer snap the ball of worry up for another go round, bouncing, ringing, spinning. It would be what it would be.

The next day, we picked up our permit and WAG bags (that's another story) for the next day’s journey. Then we headed out for a hike up the trail to Little Meysan Lake. The plan was to get out and stretch our legs and lungs, with the goal of climbing to 10,000 feet. It was one last conditioning exercise to expose us to “up” and “elevation” (the great equalizer).

We were all a bit sluggish as we started out on the steep and messy trail. Eroded from heavy use from the quarter-mile hikers, it was difficult to get into any kind of hiking rhythm. The worry ball shot up and bounced around a few times. If I felt like this now, how was I going to feel tomorrow for The Big Hike? I focused on my breathing, keeping it in time with my steps. It didn't take long before I started to feel better. We passed the beat-up section of the trail and moved on into the reward. My breathing evened out, I warmed up, and the steady climb didn't feel so bad. Everyone had loosened up and the joking began...

It was a beautiful day! Puffy clouds dotted a cobalt sky. The light was soft, intensifying the colors of the landscape. A hawk soared above us. A light breeze was blowing. The trail rapidly zigzagged up a steep slope giving us a wonderful view out over what seemed like a bottomless canyon. The near vertical granite wall across the gap was painted with every color of lichen imaginable.

Before long, the view ahead opened up and we could see the distinctive bowl of rock that marked the outer edge of the cirque holding Little Meysan Lake. Of all the cirques we would see in the next few days, this was the most defined and dramatic. Oddly, the clouds seemed to almost echo the roundness, forming a concentric shape inside the bowl.

The clouds continued to build as we climbed. It got grayer and grayer. This didn't dampen our mood nor lessen the beauty of the surroundings. In fact, the colors grew deeper in intensity. Now our vantage point revealed a waterfall tumbling off the edge of the cirque, nearly fluorescent against the black stained granite. Alongside the trail were several large flat rocks. It was the perfect spot to have lunch and enjoy the view.

The breeze kicked up a notch and we suddenly went from hot and sweaty, to cold. Jackets came out along with our lunches, and big, fat, wide-spread raindrops began to fall. It wasn't enough to get us wet, just enough to make it fun.

The consensus was that we would head back down after our break. The temperature had dropped and the clouds were heavy and purple above us. We’d nearly reached the 10,000-foot mark and we had regained our hiking legs and confidence, no need to push our luck and climb higher where we were likely to encounter snow. It was just what we needed to warm us up for the next day's adventure.

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