Finding Grace

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“Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

― Dylan Thomas

Sunday, November 1, 2015:

8 AM: Five of us meet in Gardiner—Jane, Doug, Diane, Dave and me. We load gear and ourselves into two vehicles and head into the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park. Today is my ‘Last Hurrah’. I want to spend this last day before knee replacement surgery outside, off trail, hiking through this incredible country that I’m lucky enough to call home.

The forecast was not good: rain changing to snow, wind, and generally cold and unpleasant. Today was not a day I normally would have chosen for a cross country ramble, but my agenda took precedence over the weather. One more experience of the wild before weeks of rehab. One more chance to feel grateful to my body for its strength, to my friends for their willingness to tough out the weather, and to this wildness where bison decide your route for you, where running across huge wolf scat is cause for celebration, where everyone carries bear spray.

Fortunately I’ve learned a few things about the weather in my years of running and hiking:

  1. It usually looks worse than it is
  2. Don’t trust the weather forecast.

A very light mist greeted us as we got out of the car. Rain gear on, we started down the trail. Within an hour, we had stripped off the rain jackets and did not need them again. Rain began only after we had reached the car and were on our return.

I remember every step of that day. I remember as I wake in pain. I remember as I stagger around, first using a walker, then graduating to a cane. I remember during my ‘torture’ physical therapy time—exercising to regain strength and mobility. I remember as I ask Fred for help with simple mundane activities. I remember.

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That day becomes my motivation. The harder I work the sooner I will get  back to the Yellowstone wilderness. The sooner I will exchange my cane for hiking poles, the sooner I will trade embolism stockings for hiking boots. Today’s pain has a purpose.

Now I walk a razor’s edge. Too much exercise and I’ll swell and go backward; too little and I’ll not progress. This razor’s edge is a metaphor for life’s razor’s edge.  Does one give up and become a couch potato, saying ‘I’m too old for that now’? Does one fight to continue in the face of all odds? Where is that fine line, that razor’s edge between graceful acceptance and cussed stubbornness? For me, this question looms larger with each passing year. Calmer, quieter activities I’ve enjoyed but always put off because I preferred to do are beginning to find more equal time. Writing, journaling, sketching compete with hiking and skiing. 

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I believe true grace lies in finding and balancing along that razor’s edge between rage and acceptance.

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.”

― W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge

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18 thoughts on “Finding Grace

  1. Danielle Oyler

    Beautiful Julianne. You have articulated something most people scarcely consider. The last quote resonated most with me…”one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy.” I wonder this all the time. Why isn’t the philosophy of change and impermanence considered more when we decide how we will spend our time…our lives? “This one wild and precious life”? Thank you for your thoughts.

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    1. Thanks, Marcia. This is something I’ve thought about for a while… I remember reading the D Thomas poem in highschool–just a ‘few’ years ago, and even then, it resonated with me.

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