Here it is, Blue Monday, the third Monday of January, the saddest day of the year. Calculated as such by some guy in England, based on length of day, annual credit card billing cycles, weather, flu cycles and time since Christmas. For me, after a decade in SoCal turning me into a “weather wimp,” my Seasonally Affected Disorder (S.A.D.) is compounded by looming bankruptcy and the probable loss of my home.
My thoughts constantly wander back to this past summer’s hiking meetings up Big Cottonwood canyon, from Silver Lake to Lake Solitude. It was a nooner meeting at the club in June, that some kind soul announced this “new” meeting. On a whim, I actually showed up at the foot of the mountain – the park-n-ride at 2300E/Ft. Union blvd., 5 minutes to 6PM. What a miracle, me arriving five minutes early! I met the lady that announced the meeting and some other friends. We drove up together to that tiny public parking area (below the Solitude resort parking) with the park ranger station. At 6:30PM we started hiking along the wooden boardwalk traversing Silver Lake to the start of the dirt trail.
It was about 100° down in the valley when we started. It felt like 120°. Driving up in the enclosed bed of a pickup truck was even warmer. But as we got out of the vehicles and started walking, the altitude change and weather change was immediately apparent. It was about 85° up there, so I was perfectly comfortable and took my shirt off. Suddenly for me, it was a day at the beach.
Anyhow, we politely greeted other hikers we encountered on the trail, took that right fork that pointed to Solitude (and the frisbee golf) and started off at a good clip. The whispering aspen grove with the white tree trunks started to force me to start appreciating my surroundings. Where were my feet *right now*? One girl had some botany training and would identify nearly every type of flower we asked about. For all the hiking I’ve done over the decades, I’d never seemed to notice just so very many flowers thriving in the forest. We talked a great deal as we walked. To me, it was an extreme kind of a walk in the park. Having grown up at sea-level, the altitude had me gasping for air, just from walking! But considering how sedentary the internet has made me over the past few years, the delight of getting out and actually using my body was extraordinary.
We passed underneath the chairlift (the informal half way point) and saw three deer there. What a profound statement of beauty, like an interoffice memo from God. Or maybe those deer were God’s version of twitter. At any rate, the deer sighting brought our conversation back to program issues. We each talked about God, about sobriety, about recovery, about the steps, about problem steps and the steps we each were on. Whilst stepping along the trail, pun intended.
We arrived at Lake Solitude a little later than intended. The lake itself is used to supplement it’s twin lake, both to supply water for the snow making machines of various resorts there (Snowbird? Solitude? Both?) But after only moments there, we turned around and started the hike back. The next few times I was able to join the hiking meeting, I learned this wasn’t normal. Usually we would sit for a while by the lake and do preamble stuff, daily reflection and regular meeting discussion while sitting there snacking. But that first day, (no raw AA newcomers that day) we just continued our informal discussions as we hiked.
Despite sweating on the way up, I did have to don my shirt once the sun dropped below the highest mountain peak. It was still light out, enough to see by, for hours. Perversely, we all had cell phones with signal, so even if someone managed to get lost, they wouldn’t be lost for long. Part of me wants to do a hike someday without the cellphone, but the convenience of having a camera with me, so far, has outweighed the technological intrusion.
Coming back down the trail, we made much better time. Even though the trail seems almost entirely flat, it actually is a gradual uphill hike on the way up. Coming back down, the gradual slope is not so gradual after all, making it tremendously easier. For my brain, this was an opportunity to notice nature’s glory even more. I could probably write a book about some of the individual trees and how they spoke to me, that hot summer evening.
For the remainder of the summer, until the first snow, I made this meeting as often as I could. Some people get to go every weekday. The meeting isn’t held on weekends, due to enormous tourist traffic. Almost every time, I saw deer, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, birds, birds, a gaggle of geese and even a parade of moose. Growing up in New York, I thought moose were either mythical, or extinct. Meeting that family of moose, I realized that papa weighed more than my car…and those antlers are functional weapons, honed daily, not for show.
An A.A. meeting is any time two or more alcoholics talk. This hiking meeting reminded me of my old home group in San Diego, the Wednesday Big Bonfire meeting on Mission Bay (Pacific Beach) on the beach. Roasting marshmallows was optional. It reminds me to break out and try new meetings, especially when I feel too comfortable. There are 471 meetings listed on Meeting Guide as I type this, currently per week in Salt Lake valley. That implies there are probably 700 to 3,000 informal A.A. meetings per week – just here in SLC. Having a clutch of people that know me is all well and good, but there is no excuse for getting overly attached to any specific meeting. They are all good!
The snow is falling again now. Thank you for letting me escape to these summertime memories. Thank you for being at each meeting in the deep winter, when I need to force myself to get human interaction that I need just to survive another twenty four hours.