Yesterday I went and did one of my favorite things on the planet. I went hiking. And I didn't just go hike any-ol'-where, I hiked on my favorite trail in the city. The trail that starts at Spyglass trailhead right by my old apartment at The Woods.
The apartment itself was a real find. They were having a special and I got a 2/1 for $620 a month. It was close to downtown, my job, and they were dog-friendly. And the best part of it all was that it was feet from the Barton Creek greenbelt; a part of Austin I'd always heard about, but had never personally ventured to explore.
Oh, how lucky I was to have this place. Six months after I moved in I got laid off and I spent the next two years looking for work, my Self, and men (yes, I said, "men". Get over yourself). And since these pursuits were not 24 hour excursions I had a lot of free time on my hands to explore the area and the Greenbelt was it.
This is where I first began running and enjoying my body again; running so hard my lungs burned and my muscles screamed to stop. Levi would swim and explore, chase squirrels, hurriedly sniff passing dogs' butts and run to catch up with me. It was approximately a mile to Barton Springs and I made it a daily goal to jog there. I'd work on obedience with Levi on those trails, talk to other joggers/dog-parents at the swimming hole, and Sheree and I would take a six-pack (and our dogs) to the creek when it was full of half-naked college students and cold water.
I haven't been there in four years.
Yesterday felt like a homecoming. I recognized all the trees, rocks, bends in the trail and all the changes: the burned trees, the new drains, the new graffiti. I pointed to all the new sights to Hawk, strapped to my back, and he would sweetly follow my finger. - How do you explain "limestone cliff wall" to a 17 month old??
I made it about half way to Barton Springs before I decided to head back to the car (I'd forgotten Hawk's water and the last 1/4 mile is in direct sun). I pulled off on a little outcropping and showed him red berries and more dry creek bed before I turned around. As I was standing aside, a girl in her 20's came jogging by with her dog. Just a girl and her dog. I walked back onto the trail and fell in behind her when I was struck with the thought, "That was me."
I was that girl with her dog. Carefree, relaxed, diligently digging my way out of shit.
And here I was now with my baby. Responsible, protective, assured, [and only somewhat relaxed].
I picked up the pace to keep her in my line of sight. Luckily for me she stopped jogging (I used to do that, too! Stop jogging once I'd passed someone out of view). Then another girl and her dog crossed my path, and another.
I was overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia and pride. Nostalgia for what I once had (utter freedom) and pride over what I have now (a family to protect). More honestly put, I felt mostly loss. Loss of my youthful figure, my overt sexuality, my complexity as a single person focused on herself.
As I came closer to the trailhead (and my car) I took Hawk down from my back and let him toddle around. We were in a shade-dappled curve of the trail and he was enthralled with the bushes fanning out along either side. He stumbled, but didn't fall, over the rocks and uneven limestone footing, swinging his arms merrily at the novelty of it all.
By now the girl and her dog were gone. I had seen her meet up with a man and his dog and they had left together. I was alone with Hawk and my thoughts and the trail that I loved so much. I wished I had Levi's ashes with me, but I decided to wait until spring and the trail is lush and buzzing before I spread them. Up until yesterday I had been debating on whether or not to be alone when I sprinkled his ashes or if I should have Rooster and Hawk with me. I'm definitely going to have them with me. It's another way for the Now Me to say goodbye to the Then Me.
My plan going forward is to go hike down there once a week. The way it made me feel was so plainly wonderful there's no reason I shouldn't make this a habit. That's the kind of exercise I love: effort with a purpose. It's what got my biscuit down on that trail 5 days a week in the first place. Its beauty, its simplicity.
Now when I go hiking I go down there having said goodbye to the girl and her dog I was and embracing the woman and her baby that I am. Loss is a part of moving on. I'm not feeling bad about leaving all that behind. I have the best memories of that time of my life, but I am also so fucking happy right now, too. I can feel both, right?? Loss AND happiness? I don't think they're mutually exclusive.