Friday, November 15, 2013

Healing is a Sacred Journey: Larch Mountain Fall Walk

Note from Virginia Pickles Jones:  I am a child sex abuse and date rape survivor who came forward in my 40s.  I was sexually abused by two teenaged boys when I was 4 and struggled with depression, low self esteem and anxiety through out my childhood.  Due to the lack of proper treatment, I was not able to protect myself from date rape at age 22.  And yet, despite the lack of support, I managed to endure through the one thing open to me -- time spent hiking in nature.  The very act of walking helps fight depression as when we move the feet forward, we also move the mind forward.  As an adult, I tried Prozac for depression.  I actually found prayer and meditation more healing and helpful than any medicine.  Prayer and meditation did not take my problems away.  They made me calmer and stronger as I coped with my problems, but depression and anxiety can make prayer and meditation difficult because it is hard to distract the mind from repetitive, negative thoughts.  Walking in nature, hiking and kayaking in beautiful places made the meditative state automatic.  For example, on Mother's Day 2008, I was struggling with depression but went for a walk by three Columbia River Gorge waterfalls with my children.  The waterfalls were so beautiful that I went from struggling with tearfulness to elation within two hours.  The beauty of the waterfalls and the movement of walking took me from repetitive, negative thoughts to thinking about the beauty of the place and the moment.  After all life is usually a mixture of good, boring and challenging even for happy poeple.  But we can create the opportunities for pure joy that cost us nothing -- by walking in a garden or in nature.

I experience this on Mother's Day 2008.  When my children and I arrived at our car at the end of the hike by the waterfalls, we found that the passenger's seat window was broken and our picnic lunch from New Seasons market gone along with the chocolate bar and Mother's Day gift my daughter had made for me.  Even so, I did not descend to the sadness I felt before the hike.  The high of the hike was so high, I just descended to an ordinary mood of neither depressed nor elated.

Whether we are high on the beauty of nature or merely "fine," we are able to move forward through prayer, mediation and learning new relationship skills much more easily than when we are struggling to keep sadness and anger and pain at bay.

One of my favorite places to heal myself by hiking is Larch Mountain near Portland, Oregon.  Multnomah Creek arises in the caldera of Larch Mountain below the peak -- Sherrod Point -- and then descends to world famous Multnomah Falls.  My favorite times to hike on Larch Mountain are June, October and early November when the mountain is often shrouded in mist creating a mystical atmosphere.

Below are photos from a recent walk on Larch Mountain along with my reflections and meditations inspired by my walk.  Soon a my You Tube (Healing is a Sacred Journey) site will include a slideshow with these meditations.  An older, less developed video can already be found there:Larch Mountain Meditation Walk ( ).

Larch Mountain Fall Walk

Rain washes the macadam road as we drive to Larch Mountain on a foggy Fall day.

The forest lines the way: Tall, spindly second growth Douglas Firs, Sword Ferns, withered bronzed fronds of bracken, leathery, green, holly shaped Oregon Grape, and Vine Maples, a few golden leaves clinging  to their branches before the final fall into winter.

The road winds around the mountain’s west side to......

The fog shrouded parking lot for the trails to Sherrod Point, Multnomah Falls and Oneotah Creek.

You cannot see through the mist from end to end....

Sometimes in life our path is obscured from us.  What can we do to find our path?

Larch Mountain has many trails.  Today we take the path to Sherrod Point.

The trail winds through the woods...

….and passes trees bent by many seasons of snow.

As with trees, we are bent and shaped by the burdens we carry.  But sometimes burdens nurture beauty ...  
What burdens are you carrying?  
What beauty can you nurture from those burdens?

Two tree grew intertwined, becoming one at the base.  

How is your life intertwined with others?  Do they help you grow or do they hinder you?

Further down the trail we see a tree clinging to the mountain, it’s roots laid bare by erosion.  Some windy winter night not enough soil will remain to support the tree through the storm, and the tree will fall.

Have your roots been eroded?  How?  

What are you doing to hold on?

Two paths meet in the forest, but we can only choose one .

How do you choose your path in life?

Rocky outcroppings. exposed ancient volcanic core, line our path in places.

....along with Bear Grass, which is not a grass, but a flowering plant the bears long stems of white blossoms in the spring...

Here the path becomes steep as we climb to the peak of Larch Mountain.

The soil thins; tree roots cling to the rocks like talons

Sometimes we must hold on to life tightly as our base of support erodes away..

On the steep, rocky slopes trees grow spindly and stunted


Do our circumstances leave too little fertile soil for us to grow straight and strong? 

Can we improve our circumstances?

The narrow rocky path leads away..

We return to the broad, paved path leading upwards into the misty abyss.....

A narrow boundary fence keeps us from falling

Boundaries keep us safe, but if they are too high, they can obscure our view, hamper our relationships.

Do you have careful boundaries in your relationships with others?

Can you think of a time when your boundaries were too low and you did not keep yourself safe?  What happened?  What can you do to keep yourself safe in the future?

Can you think of a time when your boundaries were too high and impeded your relationships with others?

Sometimes we fall into the abyss when we do not keep safe boundaries.  How do we heal our wounds?

I heal by coming to Larch Mountain....

I Pause where the rocky peak falls off into the unseen caldera below....

Life clings to the cliff face.  Each niche offers an opportunity for survival.

I lose myself in thought..

I lose my losses in awe and mystery and the myriad patterns, textures and colors of rocks and plants: Lichens and mosses, Buckwheat and Penstemon.

Then I continue on to the top, to the viewpoint.

the steep pitch of the peak drops off into the abyss...

Heading back down the path to the parking lot....

I find a dead tree, it’s bark peeling into piles around it’s base.

Sometimes life’s wounds lay us bare to the flesh..shedding the rough exterior that protects our core....making us vulnerable...

How are you vulnerable?

In the forest these trees offer homes to squirrels and woodpeckers and beetles...

Can we find new life and new growth when our wounds lay bare our souls?

Can you find a virtue or a strength in your vulnerability?

We come to the fork in the path.  I take the path not taken before

...and find the ghosts of a long ago Forest Service campground.....

Sometimes the ghost of our past haunt us.  What ghosts lurk in you mind from a past half forgotten?

I return to the path through the forest and follow.

........where it leads....

..full circle back to the beginning and the journey home.......

Copyright 2013 Virginia Pickles Jones, All Rights Reserved

This blog is being made into a slide show for the You Tube Channel:  Healing is a Sacred Journey

Check out these two slideshows already posted:

1 comment:

  1. No one can know the pain you’d been through. But I’m glad that you never stop finding for good ways on how to deal with it. Hiking and being surrounded by nature are great ideas to take your mind off of it. With its peaceful and beautiful scenery, you could really forget all your sorrows.

    Vesta @