Do Not Hurry the Journey (Weekly Photo Challenge: Half-Light)

Remembering to enjoy the journey, rather than missing the joys along the way because of a focus on the destination, is a constant struggle.  C.P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” reminds us in the most lyrical way that what fills our spirits during our  lives are all those journeys connected together, making up the memories we treasure.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Corbin-SHT-20160328-1.jpg

And there is no better companion for reminding me to be mindful on my voyage than a dog.  Actually, for those you have been with me these past few years, you know I am specifically referring to a certain dog …. Corbin, my 100 pounds of black lab love. While this photo I share is not one of my best from a photographic quality perspective, it was one that captured the essence of the poetry and the half-light, as the sun set on one of our many hikes through Minnesota’s Northwoods.

Corbin turned 10 earlier this year, and he is slowing, but still in remarkable health for his size and age. It is hard to imagine life without him, although I know I will have to, sooner than I care to think about.  We have had many dogs over the years — some joined us later in their lives than others, all “rescues” adopted from the local animal humane society or shelter.  From the beginning, when we brought the 7-month old 70-pound pup into our home, Corbin and I have had a special bond.

I intend to enjoy this leg of the journey to Ithaka, however long it may last, for as long as my friend is by my side.

The full text of Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaka” (also translated as “Ithaca”):

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

A wonderful reading of the poem by Sean Connery with music by Vangelis can be found on YouTube:

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Half-Light” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Half-Light.

Renewing the Spirit on the Superior Hiking Trail

Noon already had come and gone by the time my favorite hiking companion and I hit the road.  The last weekend of September is often when fall colors start to reveal their full glory in northern Minnesota.  As we headed up Highway 61, snaking along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the trees were only just starting to show hints of yellow and gold, with a flash of red here and there.

Section 13 trail on the Superior Hiking Trail

We obtained a recommendation for hiking trails which were compatible with the limited daylight hours we had remaining, and which highlighted the best of the season that weekend.  Turning the car inland, the leaves and bushes became increasingly more colorful and vibrant as we traveled away from the lake.  We drove through the town of Finland and found the trailhead parking area for the Section 13 trail of the Superior Hiking Trail.  

I have lived in Minnesota for over 20 years — and have enjoyed many classic fall color hikes and drives over the years.  What is wondrous is that each season posseesses unique gifts, just waiting to be discovered.  This hike, late on a September Sunday afternoon, provided the uplifting boost to the spirit I had been seeking.

“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Cresting the hill to catch the view, Section 13 on the Superior Hiking Trail

The Section 13 trail leads to a Sawmill Valley overlook, after winding across bubbling creeks and up a rocky set of steps.– much easier for a set of four legs to clamber up than two!  As we crested the rocky staircase, the waves of vibrant fall colors appeared to undulate across the distant hills.

View from Section 13 overlook, Superior Hiking Trail

We sat on a rocky ledge, just my faithful companion and me, and soaked in the beauty spread out below us, appreciating the seemingly infinite clusters of turning maples.  Alone with my thoughts, I could reflect upon a month of loss and grief — my heart still breaking over the unexpected death of a beautiful, vibrant friend whose sons were the same ages as mine, and feeling the still-fresh sorrow from attending the funeral the day before of a 15 year-old boy who had taken his own life, leaving behind the far-reaching pain that bullying can inflict.  Both tragedies weighed heavily on my mind, with tears the norm rather than the exception during the latter weeks of September.

 “If it can be verified, we don’t need faith… Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

View from Section 13 overlook, Superior Hiking Trail

The trails called to me that afternoon — I needed to surround myself with the most basic of natural life, to provide that reassurance that life goes on.

Heading back to the Section 13 trailhead, Superior Hiking Trail

We made our way back to the Section 13 trailhead, and walked a short distance along the higwhay until we reached the Sawmill Dome trail.  My watch read 4:45 p.m., and the sun already was casting late afternoon shadows as we entered the woods again, reminding us that evening light would come soon enough.

Clambering up at the start of Sawmill Dome trail, Superior Hiking Trail

Countless times I have stared up at a canopy of trees.  This second section of trail we explored compelled me to look up often and appreciate the artistry of the leafy layers.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”    ~ Marcel Proust

Appreciating Fall's colors

I mentally bookmarked this trail section for a return visit — with our limited daylight hours remaining, we were only able to do a 4-mile round trip hike to Sawmill Dome and back. The vistas from the path as it hugged the rocky ledges, opening up into the valley below, were spectacular.

Maples on fire with color from the Sawmill Dome trail, Superior Hiking Trail

The maples were on fire as the late afternoon sun warmed up the colors another notch — reds, golds, yellows, and greens for as far as the eye could see.  We pushed on toward the Sawmill Dome overlook, as much as these views called for pause.  A large rocky outcropping with tall trees decorating the top ledge blocked the forest trail, causing the path to wind around its base and work its way up toward the open sky.  Despite the fading daylight, this place warranted a break for reflection.

Best friend on Sawmill Dome, Superior Hiking Trail

Solitude was what I craved on this glorious afternoon, sharing it only with another companion who understands living in the moment better than most — my four-legged friend, Corbin.  We had the view to ourselves, and Corbin’s unburdened joy was infectious.

Sawmill Dome ~ Superior Hiking Trail

Before we turned back, I decided a photo was needed.  My companion was less than helpful as I tried to set up the camera for a timed shot.

Getting the camera timer situated

More than one take was necessary . . .

Faithful hiking companion on Sawmill Dome

The sorrow and grief remained, but intertwined with them was the overwhelming need to appreciate the beauty of life and the unique gifts, as well as challenges, that each day holds.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~ Albus Dumbledore, from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Faithful hiking companion on Sawmill Dome

Ciao! ~ Kat

The Miracle of a Single Flower

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” ~ Buddha

Flower along the Split Rock River Loop Trail

Ciao! ~ Kat