One of the reasons  I’ve come to love hiking and paddling so much is that discomfort can illuminate things you would never otherwise notice. For example, when I spend a lot of time in air conditioning, I take it for granted, and sometimes even find it annoying. But when I’ve been slogging for miles in a grubby heat, the discomfort awakens me to the most subtle of gifts: a patch of pines on a ridge through which the gentle breath of breeze cools the air; a freshet flowing from a crack in the mountain; or, at the end of a trip, the abrupt sting of air-conditioned civilization.

Evergreen stand on the Middle Branch Trail, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
Evergreen stand on the Middle Fork Trail, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

The same thing happens for me on a whole-life scale. When I’ve been doing the Corpus Callosum Shuffle, as I have for many days now, the days I take to live in my creative brain feel like stepping into that cool pine grove. I notice everything: the lush green outside my kitchen window where I’m writing; the nest of birds in my sun porch roof whose newly hatched occupants herald their parents’ every visit with a tremendous, squeaky chorus of hungry peeping; the sound of the soft rain; the peace of a quiet house. In this way, my life feels like the tide – its ebb and flow is durable and predictable. It’s just up to me to notice both.

 

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