Have you ever thought how therapeutic it is to cast your eyes in the distance and to look far far away? I was thinking about that yesterday as I was walking with my little black dog, Chloe, on the mountain here in Montreal. If you've never been to Montreal, you may not know that it's a city that's built around a forested hilly park (764 feet high), designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who sculpted New York's Central Park. We call our park "the mountain."
The mountain is the place that everyone and his uncle can be found on a stunning summer Saturday like yesterday, walking, running or biking the wide shady trail that winds to the top. At clearings along the way, you can stop and look out for miles at the landscape far beyond the city – the fields, the St. Lawrence River, and even, on a clear day, all the way to Vermont.
During my walk yesterday, I was thinking of another time in my life, a much darker time right after my husband left, when I would walk the trail alone, long before Chloe was even a twinkle in her Jack Russell papa's eye. It was winter then, both literally and figuratively, and I'd made a promise to myself to get out of the house on Sunday mornings and come to the mountain, seeking the solace of nature. I thought of a particular day, when I was feeling so wretched that it was a Herculean effort to haul my sorry ass out the door and trudge my way up the hill.
But it was a beautiful crisp cold day and seemed to me that the air, the light, the sun, and everything were there to comfort me. I realized that although I'd lost my husband, no one could take this away from me. I decided to say bonjour to everyone I passed and did. I felt joy and sadness.
When I got to one of the lookouts, I stopped and gazed into the distance. I'd once heard that it's very restful for your eyes to look far away, but that day it seemed more than that – it felt healing to the soul. I thought about all the life that was going on the city below me – all the joy and drama and ordinary everydayness of it. I've always felt that one of the hallmarks of really being an adult is the ability to look beyond the suffering of the moment and know that the future is always there waiting for you – to look in the distance. My mom used to say it more simply – This too shall pass.
I came home feeling better and tried to stamp the thought in my mind that no matter how intense my sadness was at the moment, it was mutable. It would shift and eventually lift. And the mountain would always be there for me.
If what you've read here moved you or started you thinking, please post a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts!