It’s hot and dry. I am hiking in the California desert. I am sweating, seemingly from every pore. The small rocks that form the gravel inevitably find their way into my dirty sneakers, leaving me unsteady. The steep, spiral-like trail intimidates me, but I trudge along. High above me is the famous Hollywood sign.
The landscape around me has a muted, yet vibrant color palette. Leaves of all kinds—a concoction of green if you will. Flowers blend into this mixture – a subtle harmony of browns, purples, and greens. Desert plants appear, reminding me that beauty can grow anywhere if given the space to grow. There are few trees. Layers of exposed dirt. With each step, my view widens. I see how this mountain range shapes the contours of the city below. I notice a thick layer of smog. It distorts the colors, the yellows and oranges that serve as a harbinger of sunset.
Insects, bugs, filled every nook and cranny that the rocks have left exposed. Their small bodies look much bigger as they fly and crawl from every edge. I follow several of the bugs to the edge of the mountainside, and for a moment I feel light and free-floating as if I was one of them. I look down and see people inching along in their cars. Choking traffic. But up here, I can’t hear anything.
I normally listen to music, but here the wind uses the trees as an instrument – a muted trombone perhaps, while flying insects make a bass-like sound. The heaviness in my body seems to lift, even if momentarily. The sounds of this place appear to be shifting, each rock’s irregular shape and jagged edges softened by the wind, the tall, swaying grass producing a faint “sh” sound.
When I reach the peak, it is still. I am still. The birds appear to stop chattering. My feet have stopped shuffling, even the wind has stopped rustling the bushes. All of the weight I was carrying in my mind, and body, seem to disappear. I can finally catch my breath. Never have I felt such a sense of peace in a single moment.