Next Stop: Pine Springs

My arms and legs are on fire. Both boast impressive sets of scratches and scrapes. Note to self—next time I decide to scale a mountain, a clearly-marked trail or a brush-whacking machete would come in handy. I spent a piece of the weekend at Pine Springs Ranch, away from the books, smog, and closed-in feelings that all gradually settle over Loma Linda. It’s funny how lacing the weekend with perks to look forward to digs the spurs in a little deeper Monday through Friday. Little goals keep me trotting through life. Morning coffee is a prize for dragging myself out of bed. I creamer-splurge on days that are extra cold or extra early. Saturdays, I study at non-Starbucks getaways. Sunday nights earn me shaved legs and clean sheets. Unwrapping a chocolate, taking a walk, or sparking up favorite Yankee candles are all rewards. Marks of mild accomplishments being met. Kind pats on the back for making it a few paces further. Call it self-indulgence. I think of it as sanity maintenance. We all need those little stops that we can eagerly trot up to on the way to where we’re going. The small, looked-forward-to detours on our pilgrimage to progress. That’s precisely what this weekend was. A 45 minute drive into a different world. A world made of pine needles, hot chocolate, and just enough chill to warrant long sleeves and a scarf.

“Let’s go on a hike” is such an innocent proposition. As soon as the offer is thrown on the table, my mind tosses together a lovely picture featuring several bluebirds on either shoulder, sunlight spotting through tall branches, and the soft rustle of leaves singing the background track for casual banter and light-hearted laughs. Nature bows beneath my confident, hiking boot steps. Like much of life, reality has a funny way of weaving around the ideals. My shredded thighs and throbbing elbows now know better than to trust such lie-painted pictures. My old Adidas had no traction. The thorny trees decided to stage a revolt against any patches of uncovered skin. My hemoglobin was having a stingy day of oxygen-delivery selfishness, and my coordination decided to skirt out on attendance all together. A troop of eight of us started up the mountain. Laughter rolled, smiles flashed, and jokes and stories were swapped like grade school lunches. By the end of our three hour death march, a very different brigade stomped down the great hill. Languishing for water, licking our wounds, and making bold pronouncements of “never again!” I have a new-found respect for Lewis and Clark, and am so relieved that my profession will be bathed in sterile white instead of terror-riddled underbrush.

That being said, Pine Springs was still awesome. I think I may have even been bragging a bit about scaling the rugged heights by the end of the day. It was a redefinition of rest, bred by distance from my “normal.” Something about being miles away from study material and the life that orbits classes breathes a new version of freedom. Being physically removed from the option of work lets you use the moments of nothingness to plop down in the grass and find cloud shapes. Or attempt to throw a spiral pass. Or look into someone’s eyes and ask how they’re doing so you can hear them ‘til they’re through. You can listen like you mean it, because you do. You can lay back on a field of green, happy just to be outside on something soft. You can let the wind push against your face and hair and know that God’s breath and love are persistent and fresh. Yes, I think a life with little “get to it” mile markers is far improved from one without. Like a marathon with water stops. Or a year spotted with holidays. Living is so much more fun when it runs toward something. Which is precisely why I’m excited to fall asleep tonight. Because tomorrow plans to be a slightly-early morning. I can already taste the extra creamer.