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Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (May 31, 2010)

Two days ago the hubby and I hiked to the top of Cowles Mountain. It’s not very far from where we live, but far enough away that you only find yourself there with some planning. We hadn’t been up there together in at least five years. Something to do with the three-kid juggle. But our babysitter was available, and we realized it we didn’t do it then, it might be another year before it occurred to us!

There were plenty of other people who had the same idea. Hikers and trail runners scurried up and down the mountain as we arrived and I took the opportunity to people-watch. There were hikers of all ages and nationalities: preschool-aged kids on up to a grandma or two motoring down the trail. We passed college students, families, and solo hikers. Some had tattoos, some Ipods, and one man even wore flip-flops. Sometimes we exchanged hellos. A place like Cowles gives you the opportunity to share the land with others but also a chance to experience it at your own pace and through your own eyes. Everyone takes something different away from the experience.

We reached the top and took a few minutes to absorb the 360-degree view. The mountain’s peak is 1,592 feet above sea level, making it the city’s highest point. To the west I saw Point Loma, downtown and Mt. Soledad. To the south was bright blue Lake Murray and out east Mt. Helix stood tall. Filling in the gaps were what make up a city: roads, cars, trees, parks, schools and residential neighborhoods, all the pieces fitting together like a mosaic. The tidy rows of homes below in Del Cerro looked like Monopoly houses with their identical pitched roofs. Somehow it always gives me a sense of peace, looking down on the city. I notice how small the houses are in the grand scheme of things, and I’m reminded that my life (worries, frustrations and all) is just a teeny piece of something much larger than I am. The view from up high literally gives me a different perspective, and that’s a good thing.

When we weren’t gazing into the distance, we studied the wild flowers blooming just off the trail. We smelled wild sage, and touched flowers with petals the size of a pin head. There were car-sized boulders dotting the reddish-brown dirt and not one piece of litter. It seems Cowles’ hikers respect her.

We hiked on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Although our decision to hike at Cowles had nothing to do with the holiday weekend itself, it seems fitting for this reason: Memorial Day is a day that unites all Americans. We collectively appreciate those who have fought for our country’s safety and freedoms. Like the hikers atop Cowles Mountain, Americans are a diverse group. Each of us approaches life differently: some race up and down the trail, pushing themselves to the limit. Others go slowly, stopping to smell flowers and watch lizards. Some listen to music on their journey, some talk and others go to hear the wind in the scrub brush. Same trail, different motivations. But those who seek out Cowles share an appreciation for the mountain, just as all Americans—diverse as we are—can unite in our love of America. I gazed out over my county, and felt grateful for the strength and spirit of America. A beautiful morning indeed…