The subtle nuances of life’s magic never ceases to amaze me.
As I planned my columns for the New Year, this one leaped out at me: February 14, Valentine’s Day.
Many years ago, when I started my outdoors column for The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene, Oregon, one of my first columns landed on Valentine’s Day.
Still in the process of introducing myself, I wrote about this being a day for affairs of the heart. And that, more than anything, one needs to take care of your heart, literally. I offered to help start anyone’s quest to get back into shape by going with them on a hike, bike ride, paddle — whatever.
The whole premise of my column was that I was new to Oregon, and readers should share with me their favorite outdoor adventures. Then, I would write about it.
I realize that most, if not all, reading today’s Valentine’s Day column spend a good deal of time on their bikes or partaking in some other sort of exercise. That wasn’t the case for a general newspaper audience.
But just maybe, some of you are out there who have gotten off your beaten path. Maybe it’s just the pace of life ratcheting up. Maybe it’s a lingering illness.
Maybe, well, it could be any number of reasons that your bike sits more than it spins.
Ever since that first Valentine’s Day column, this holiday brings a warm, comforting feeling that smothers me.
You see, shortly after that column ran, I got an email from a stay-at-home Dad named Scott. When Scott took over the Mr. Mom role raising his two daughters, exercise somehow took a backseat. As in most cases, he really didn’t feel the impact until he was well into the, ah, soft life.
So Scott suggested that we get out on a family hike during spring break and reignite his family’s commitment to its collective heart. My two daughters joined Scott, his wife and his two daughters on a hike of Spencer Butte, just outside Eugene.
Spencer Butte itself reflects the human connection of heart to nature.
Spencer Butte rises from the Oregon forests to the north of Eugene as part of its spectacular views. Back in 1937, the owners of the land were approached by a company that planned to log it.
The city of Eugene began an effort to buy the butte to save the wonderful ambience that surrounds the city like a cozy quilt, but the owners put a short deadline on the purchase because of their other offer. These were hard times, as the world struggled in the latter grips of the Great Depression.
When the park commission attempted to get a bank loan for the down payment,it was refused. So the community took up a fund-raising campaign, and with local folks determined to see their scenic panorama saved, they managed to raise the required funds to save Spencer Butte, just a dollar or so at a time.
That takes heart.
It’s quite possible, that was the birth of the magic I’ve come to know, my own adventures on Spencer Butte saved more than a century ago.
My column of our hike ran in April. Unbeknownst to me, a woman named Chris read it. Once an outdoors enthusiast, Chris had lost her way, too.
As often happens, she just got caught up in life. Her weight ballooned and she hit a point where she wasn’t sure what to do. She just knew that, sooner or later, she had to do something.
That’s when she read about our heart hike on Spencer Butte. It all clicked.
That column took a privileged position on her fridge. She always loved Spencer Butte. So off she went.
Her first time up Spencer Butte took her nearly three hours to complete the 1.7- mile loop with 741 feet of climbing that trail guides estimate should take the average person half that time.
But she had taken that first step.
More importantly, she took the next step. Then another. And another. And kept on going. She began hiking regularly, three to five times a week. Just past her one-year anniversary of her return to outdoor activity, she emailed to report, her life had changed. She dropped all that extra weight, nearly 80 pounds. She was fit and happy. She hikes and bikes. She just wanted to say thanks.
Of course we celebrated with a hike. Celebrated by sharing nature, both around us, and within, on a glorious spring day. It felt surprisingly comfortable and natural, if you will, meeting Chris for the first time.
She pulled into my driveway with me waiting at the window like an anxious puppy. I ran outside and we embraced in a firm hug — something you just don’t do with someone you’ve just met unless your hearts demand it.
That’s the magic of it all. Chris didn’t just make one dream come true with her amazing adventure.
She made two.
Time to ride.
Thanks for the compliment and thanks for reading!
I won’t say I’ve lost my way. But I’m going in odd directions at times.
Time to check the compass!
Good for you. Personally I think I threw away my compass for better or worse to embrace the odd directions. At least that’s what my friends say …
I don’t lock into the compass per se. But the odd directions have been a little too wrong at times. Like, when it’s cloudy so you can’t use shadows to guide your way so, essentially, you’re just guessing on the next turn. Every now and then, I guess badly.l