Marking a life with meaning

What happens when you plan an expedition and the morning dawns with an unexpected but overdue rainfall?

You go anyway, hoping for a break in the damp.

The rain did cease but the mountaintop mist lingered, obscuring the long-anticipated viewscape.

It didn’t matter to four women unfamiliar with each other but united in a shared quest for Sunday morning solace. Striding through a damp forest was a welcome escape from the sweltering heat of lingering summer temperatures.

Chatting and sharing stories, we learned more about each other and a little more about ourselves. A plan to pitch pebbles from the summit was the goal – the idea was to release something weighty after setting an intention. Standing tall on the summit of Tray Mountain, we counted down.




The small rocks pierced a sky with no view beyond the white wall of mist. It felt good. Liberating, yes, but also, we marked off another task on the endless to-do list.

An all-female cliffside communion commenced with water, energy bars and a few forbidden almond M&Ms.

On the downhill trip, we paused to notice the details along the path.

Tiny water droplets sparkled on the tips of spiky fungi.

Layers of lichen masqueraded as romaine lettuce look-alikes.

Stems of mountain laurel twisted toward the leaden sky.

And bright white blazes directed our journey.

It would have been easy to say ‘yes’ to a morning spent in the quiet warmth of a few extra hours under the covers. Instead, we pushed for a different experience. With all five senses keenly reminding us of our mortality, we discovered the joy in physical ability and varying degrees of personal fitness.

My last trip on this particular trail was more than 15 pounds ago. Following two of my children, the elevation change hit me hard. I was convicted that day to make a shift toward a different lifestyle. On this particular Sunday, I noticed my breathing was less difficult and my stride more confident. Silently, I celebrated progress from that day three years ago and made a mental note of the milestones to go.

The voice of a new friend echoed in my ear as we descended the trail from its peak, summing up the truth of what we all know. Moderation, she said, for all things pleasant but perhaps not so healthy. It never ends — this commitment to life and health and sound decisions. The lifestyle we choose delivers consequences either good or bad; beneficial or detrimental.

Conversation over the post-hike brunch prompted a question from one friend as we talked about how we honored the lives of two prominent individuals whose careers were spent in service to community.

“Will my life be as impactful?” she wondered.

I don’t think we have to do huge things to be valued. The measure of small accomplishments can hold as much meaning as seemingly more significant milestones.

What is my motivation to get up every day to make merry among those enfolded within my circle of influence?

Smiling with optimism and setting an example of integrity, service, and of course, big love for neighbors are among my daily goals.

I will continue to walk forward with gratitude and purpose. I’m in good company with the women in my life striving to mark this life with meaning.

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