On the Trail: Lost Man solace for lost friend
August 18, 2006
When my friend Brad Odekirk died last week, the obvious celebration of his life was a hike through Colorado’s spectacular wilderness. Ode’s love of the outdoors is legendary.But on Thursday, when a bunch of his friends took a group hike in Summit County, where Ode worked as a photographer, I couldn’t bring myself to go. I’d spent so much time comforting and being comforted that I had reached some sort of sensory overload.All the more reason to take Ode’s lead and head out to the hills. I decided to take a hike by myself on the upper Lost Man Loop.But let’s face it, I didn’t do this for Ode. I did it for me.Other than a church, the serenity and the solitude of an alpine peak is just about the best place I can think of to mourn the loss of a loved one. With thoughts spinning wildly about the injustice of death and the meaning of life, it’s hard to find a calming state of mind.But away from the rush and the noise of civilization, without the interruption of phones or even friends, I found that calm.As I lay on my back staring up toward the heavens, it struck me that I was so high up, I couldn’t even see the mountaintops, only sky.As I closed my eyes, the rush of the water melded with the rush in my brain until they were one, and my grief became a part of the earth.Even the bugs didn’t disturb. They seemed to somehow know this was my place, my time, my last moment alone with a lost friend.As I lay there, listening to the water, inhaling the fresh smells of the lush landscape, I realized the restorative power of Mother Nature. And it occurred to me that I seek the healing power of Mother Earth as I still seek the nurturing support of my own mother when I’m sick or sad. Both of my mothers existed long before I did, and they have the power, without words, to calm my spirit simply by allowing me to rest in their presence. Perhaps it’s the sense that I am a child again, with no responsibilities and the unfettered belief that there’s nothing, no wound, no situation, Mother cannot heal.My afternoon hiking in the hills and weeping with the willows helped me connect both with my lost friend and with that need to sit silently and reunite with the source of all life. And it was a reminder of the peace and the solace that come from spending time not alone, but in the company of that which remains wild.