Sunday September 9, 2012. Mono Cliffs
I’m finding it’s such a mirror for this time of year. It’s early September, still technically summer, but there are signs all around to remind me that it is coming to an end. There is a delicious nip in the morning air, and the fields are filled with goldenrod and purple asters. Cattails and the milkweed pods are bursting with seeds. Canada geese are flying south in formation. I’m loving this, but I can see that winter is on its way.
If I want to get maudlin – and what the heck, let’s be self-indulgent – it even mirrors how I feel about this stage in my life. Being in my late 50’s, I can’t escape the fact that my own summer is over. What I am experiencing now feels like a suspension between stages, no longer young but not yet old. I can still delight in this adventure, and enjoy energy and good health. At the same time life gives me daily reminders — like the friend of a friend with Alzheimer’s in her 70’s, or another friend whose husband’s Parkinson’s has plunged them into frailty much too soon — that tell me I need to cherish this for the precious gift that it is.
This is just the kind of thinking that permeates so many of our conversations on the trail. It brings me to thinking about pilgrimages, in part because Marian and I plan to walk the Camino together once we complete the Bruce. I keep noticing that hiking the Bruce is itself a pilgrimage. We’ve become seasoned as hikers but we have also become participants in each other’s transformations. The long hours together on the trail have given us time to seek each other’s wisdom, to share ever deeper secrets and to help each other sort out life’s transitions. We are not the same people as when we started, nor is our friendship the same.
Marian’s friend Mary joined us again today and she’s a good fit for exploring this spiritual side of the journey. She teaches us about yoni trees and shamans. When a porcupine appears and waddles purposefully across our path and off into the woods she challenges us to consider its message. It’s all spiky on the outside protecting its personal boundaries, but it has a soft underbelly. While we have lunch we watch a hawk soar high overhead and we reflect on its beauty and its ability to see great distances.
At day’s end we’re back in the hamlet of Mono Centre where we’ve left our car and we leave such lofty thoughts behind. Mono Centre, despite being a tiny little place, only about 10 houses altogether, is among our best discoveries in escarpment country. The village offers some great surprises. First and foremost is the Mono Cliffs Inn, a pub and restaurant where we hoist our après-hike beer with a plate of delicious calamari. This Inn has one of the best outdoor patios ever on its side veranda. My favourite feature is the large table built to fit around a living tree. It’s designed for sharing, and both times we’ve been here we ended up in conversation with the party occupying the other end. Then there is a pretty little gift shop across the parking lot from the Inn. And, if you follow the flagstone path through the perrennial garden you get to the new Mono Community Centre. This, we have decided, is where we must hold our grand celebration party when we complete the trail.
Just look at us now – we’re starting to taste the end! magdalena