I remember years ago my run into the Grand Canyon to begin a job as the Havasupai Tribal Alcohol and Recovery Counselor. As the sun was rising, I came to Hualapai hilltop where I started my descent into the canyon that ended at the village. Striding on the river bottom, I rounded the bend and suddenly was about to run into horses on the trail. I frightened them, and they began to run. The packer screamed at me, “Watch out! You are scaring my horses. You must walk around them quietly.” I continued my run winding through the canyon and up rocky hills until I came upon Havasupai creek, the beginning of the village. As I ran into the campground, Harlow Uqualla, the Tribal Campground Director, greeted me and said, “What did you see along the way? Who’s chasing you?” Breathing heavily, I turned around seeing only children playing with a soccer ball on the trail behind me. I replied, “No one is chasing me.” He looks at me with a smile and says, “Someday, you will meet the man who was chasing you.” I thought, “What am I running from? What am I running to? What did I really see along the trail?” Somehow his questions penetrated deep, and I began to wonder.
In January of 2018, I went to Palm Springs, California to celebrate the birth of my great grandson. My son Lance, the grandfather, and my daughter Ashley organized a family hike. Even though my hip was injured, I decided to go on the hike. I was nervous; I had doubts of whether I could complete the six-mile trek through the mountains. As I began the hike, walking on the smooth dirt and somewhat rocky trail, I felt encouraged and kept moving. While we were gently climbing, Lance and Ashley checked to see if I was okay. When the trail became increasingly steeper and rockier, the hike became more difficult. I began to get butterflies in my stomach and a knot in my chest. All at once, I imagined what my children felt like when we hiked while they were young. I had a flashback of how in the past I pushed my kids. So, I turned to Ashley and asked,” what memories do you have of our hikes?” She said, “As a small girl, I didn’t always love hiking with you. Sometimes you pushed me beyond my limits and I recall feeling you simply didn’t care if I was out of breath, exhausted or scared. However, I remember your sticking by my side, helping me find a way to stay with my struggles, without running from them and celebrating each time I pushed past my comfort zone, discovering I was capable of more than I had realized.” I looked at Ashley, “I’m beginning to feel challenged and off-balance.” She smiled, “I am here with you.”
As the hike continued, Lance came close and walked next to me. I asked him, “What was it like with me when you were young?” He said, “I dreaded having to constantly run miles, do push-ups and kick soccer balls. It was your agenda and I didn’t like it. I knew you wanted me to do well, but we never just played, had fun and got to know each other when I was young. I am glad we changed together over the years.” When Lance noticed I needed help, he climbed onto the rocks above me. He held out his gentle and strong hand, securing mine. Ashley gracefully moved behind me, and with her arm around my waist, supported me as Lance pulled me up. I pushed my legs into the rocks, and together we moved through a steep part of the trail. Ashley and Lance became my crutch and cane. We were like a gentle six-legged animal navigating our way smoothly through the rocky path…supporting, sharing weight, laughing and holding each other up. Ashley said, “Dad, this is quite different from your sprinting through canyons, charging up mountain trails and being in non-stop competition with the world and yourself.” I was struck with how hard I had charged without knowing what was happening within me. Ashley continued,” I have grown to love the feeling of standing on a summit, heart pounding, and wind blowing through me, feeling deeply alive. I grew to love the small steps through the dirt, seeing deer dart through the trees, noticing small flowers blooming by the path. I eventually began to recognize that my greatest joy often lies in the tiny footsteps, not in the triumphant ending on a mountain top.” I knew then that my happiness was being a part of a gentle six-legged animal. This experience allowed me to find my inner strength and count my blessings along the way. I was learning to lean on Ashley and Lance, as well as share my steps with them. Life is about the people I lean on, the joy of holding and also of being held.
I began to become energized, awakened and inspired to belong and contribute to our unique experience of moving and flowing together. I was having fun. Once again, I was a little boy who came out to play and explore. Now I began to understand what Lance meant when he said, “I missed just playing, having fun and getting to know each other.” My stomach began to feel empty and hollow. I couldn’t remember any times walking, playing, or going places with my dad. I still wish that the empty place inside me was filled with memories that we had missed together. Now Lance and Ashley had taught me the beautiful feeling and experience of being a father.
As the hike came to a close, I told Lance and Ashley, “this is the most memorable hike of my life because you were with me every step of the journey. We were all part of something greater than ourselves and learned to move in new and different ways together.” My eyes began to water. I felt wholeness and I was at peace. As Lance turned to leave, he said, “I was happy to share this hike with you, and I know I would reach out to anyone on the trail who needed help.” I said with pride,” I know you would, son.” Ashley smiled, and I realized this hike was my mountaintop. I understand that achievement alone doesn’t fill my empty heart. It is being part of something greater that gives me meaning.
Sitting alone now on the rocks, with the sun on my face, I remembered my run into the Grand Canyon years ago. I could hear the echo of Harlow Uqualla’s words, “Someday you will meet the man who is chasing you.” I now realize the man who was chasing me was inside me, and on this hike with my family, I met him. I am learning how to love and accept him for all that he is. This is my homecoming.
As you walk your trails of life, stop, take a deep breath, sense and feel deeply within yourself and get to know the brilliance of you. Let your light shine and share it with others and the world around you. L’chaim.
Richard Fine Ph.D. has many abilities, but only one goal, helping you achieve your own. He holds a doctorate in the field of Counseling Psychology and is certified as a Master Fitness Trainer and a Board Certified Coach. He provides services in both relationship and Health and Wellness coaching as well as, personal fitness training. He works with performance athletes and special needs clients. Specifically, in the areas of obesity, arthritis, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and joint replacements. Initial Consultation no charge to determine whether Richard can meet your needs and goals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.