Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Autumn Date Hike

Last week was our first date night out since we moved here two months ago. We found a lovely young girl at our church who said she'd be delighted to watch our 3 energetic boys, and made the arrangements for a Wednesday night. When the morning of our date night came, our eldest son became very worried about it. It's in his nature to stress about the unknown future, to the point of making himself ill. I almost cancelled the date altogether when I saw how disturbed he was, but reminded myself that this is normal for him: he'd spend the entire day freaking himself out and worrying himself sick, and then when the babysitter arrived, he'd be okay. And he was, although he made us promise to be back at exactly 8:01pm at the latest. "Okay," we agreed, "We'll be back by 8:01pm, no sooner, no later. Promise." It was a good compromise considering this was his first time with the new sitter, plus a nice way to instill his trust in us for the next time.

It felt good to walk away from the house knowing my boys were being taken care of by someone nurturing and caring, who wasn't me at the moment. It also felt good to walk away from the house having my husband all to myself. I really needed this.

We decided to go hiking up in the hills behind our neighborhood. A friend had told us about a secret cave hidden in the hills called "Squaw Cave." She described it as being mystical and beautiful, nestled up near a flowing river, a cascading waterfall, and a breathtaking view of the entire valley.  I had excitedly told my husband about it and how finding this cave would make the perfect date night! (After all,  cave dates are one of our favorite kinds!)
He  laughed, skeptically,  reasoning that such a place can't exist in our shrub-laden desert of Cedar City! However, I felt determined we'd find it and set us off in the direction of the hills. We hiked for a good 25 minutes, up, up, up towards the location of "Squaw Cave." We followed several steep, rocky  trails going upward, then traversed several small deer trails going downward. We stepped briskly through forests of juniper and cottonwood trees, ravines full of manzanita shrubs and prickly pear cactus, and washes lined with yellow, willow trees. When we finally climbed to the tippy top of a dry, rocky mountain, I caved in, out of breath, "Okay, okay, we can stop! I see that there's no magical, mystical Squaw Cave up here!"
We laughed a little bit as we talked about how people's perceptions of things can be so vastly different from each other. We reasoned that the elusive cave could very well exist, yet we might be seeing it with different eyes. Perhaps the "cave" was actually a small overhanging of rocks, the "river" was a tiny creek, and the "waterfall," a trickle of spring water coming down the side of the hill. People see and remember things with different lenses, according to their experiences, and it's possible we might have even passed it by minutes ago!
When we realized we weren't going to find our Squaw Cave, we decided instead to keep hiking until we reached a farther off landmark---a giant Cottonwood tree changing color in a distant ravine. We started hiking towards our new destination, determined to make it there and back home again before 8:01pm.
As we hiked further, I happily looked around at the breathtaking desert colors surrounding me and inahled the potent smells of the dry, dusty wind in my face. The landscape was filled with Autumn hues; browns, reds, dark greens, golden oranges, yellows, and the pink clouds of a setting sun in the distance. We hiked up a long, spacious ravine that led us over smooth river rocks and sandy trails, and finally to our giant Cottonwood tree. I thought about how when I first came here in 2004 to work with my husband (then-fiancee) at a wilderness therapy program and how the land seemed barren and brown to me. The colors of the desert all seemed to blurr together into two shades of dull and duller. The thorns and burrs on my clothes irritated me, and the smell of the dry earth bothered my nose. 
I started to wonder what changed this landscape for me over the years: How did I fall in love with this place? How did this place become so beautiful to me?
When people ask us where we just moved from and I answer, from Hawaii, a typical and cynical response is,"What possessed you to leave beautiful Hawaii for Cedar City Utah?"

 Well,  I tell them, people see and remember things with different lenses, according to their experiences. We all see things with different eyes, and well, my eyes must have fallen in love with this place all those many years ago. I fell in love with the red-rock mountains, I fell in love with the dusty valleys, I fell in love with the vibrant, desert colors, and I fell in love with the earthy smells of cactus and sandstone growing along the humble rivers.  Through my eyes, Cedar City, Utah is a magical, mystical place full of beauty and wonder. That's one reason we moved back here, and that's one reason why my husband and I had one of the best dates we've had in years.
As we started to leave the ravine, I stopped my husband so I could look him in the eyes. I wanted him to know with all the truth in my heart that I am happy we moved back here. It's true that I fell in love with this place all those many years ago, but it was him that I fell in love with here the most. 
(He's the reason why we are here right now and why I love my life!)
Micah and Sally, pre-marriage, 2004
We embraced under the cottonwood tree and felt the peace of our decision surround us. It was a tender moment I will never forget.
Then we quickly turned on our heels and hurried back to our home,  knowing full well that if we didn't get back by 8:01pm it might be a looooooooong time before we could go out again.

I didn't get any photos of our date night, yet I wanted to share some photos from a recent family hike up one of our favorite canyons, Kolob Canyon:


arianne said...

All your pics are making me miss Cedar!

Sally Jackson said...

I am missing you in Cedar!!