Mountains and Mycology.

I am thinking about expectations. 

 Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur

I'd heard so much about this iconic bridge, so driving here, I admittedly had some high expectations. The view was indeed great, but the loud and obnoxious people clamoring for photo-op space along every inch of the dirt ridge left me feeling annoyed, disappointed and claustrophobic.

How often we think that those 'iconic' moments and things in life will make us happy- securing that ideal job, finding the perfect partner, getting that first book published, buying that dream house, getting that puppy- only to realize that once we've 'arrived' it is not at all what we expected. I've learned that society's definitions of what makes a good life rarely define my own.

I got in my car and kept driving south, enjoying the view and being open to exploring a new adventure on an off-beaten path somewhere else. I needed silence. And space.

It's a funny thing when you have no phone reception and are searching for a trailhead that you've only heard about from social media. Even in my search for solitude, I needed to enlist help. I stopped and asked for directions at the Henry Miller Library where I was met by a friendly man wearing a beanie, who delightfully led me to the back corner of the library. He picked up a book of hiking trails, glanced at the index, and thumbed through the pages until he reached the trail I was inquiring about. He then drew me the clearest, detailed map, including landmarks that would alert me that I had driven too far south, and warned me that is was trail that was "strenuous and not for the faint-hearted." I was grateful for him and his little map, which is now tucked away in my shoebox of special cards and letters. It is a reminder of how complete strangers allow us to discover places and parts of ourselves, and a call to point people in the right direction, regardless if we know their name or not. Such is the power of human kindness. I smiled and went on my way, without any clear expectations, yet excited for the adventure that awaited me. 

I grew up with landscape as a recourse, with the possibility of exiting the horizontal realm of social relations for a vertical alignment with earth and sky, matter and spirit. Vast open spaces speak best to this craving.
— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
 Boronda Ridge Trail, Big Sur

Boronda Ridge Trail, Big Sur

Most of the time, having expectations is helpful and necessary. But I am realizing that a certain beauty emerges when you surrender them. Sometimes having no expectations allows us to show up in the world with an awakened heart and a listening ear- it makes us more open, more present, more amazed.

 Gorgeous views along every inch of the single track trail.

Gorgeous views along every inch of the single track trail.

 The view after the ascent. Timber Top, Big Sur.

The view after the ascent. Timber Top, Big Sur.

 Enjoying the amazing view of the coast along every inch of the trail.

Enjoying the amazing view of the coast along every inch of the trail.

I met a man on my descent who was fascinated by mycology; he was carrying a 5-gallon plastic bucket, trudging along in heavy hiking boots, wearing a large backpack, and whistling. The recent weather conditions and fire had left him empty-handed in his hunt for mushrooms that day. He took a twig and uncovered a few mushrooms from underneath some damp leaves, explaining how the type of gill structure underneath their caps and blue-grey hue means they're poisonous.

 Spotted this patch of poisonous mushrooms resting underneath an oak tree on my climb to Timber Top.

Spotted this patch of poisonous mushrooms resting underneath an oak tree on my climb to Timber Top.

I marvel at how the power of an unexpected meeting with a stranger acts as a simple reminder of how lovely this world is, with all of its millions of species. We are all trying to gather and collect the good things in life- whether that's clarity, purpose, fungi. It is hard work. It is important work. Even when that strong desire to fill our bucket consumes us, it's knowing and recognizing when something is dangerous and poisonous and still leaving it alone that makes us wiser and stronger. That's where the true power lies.

The rain will come. The mushrooms will eventually grow. But for now, we continue to traverse along the same path with open eyes and hearts, whistling and swinging our empty buckets with a lightness in our steps, enjoying the vastness of the sky and sea.