Saturday we went out to hike with friends. We were 30 minutes late. The trailhead was so busy the lot was full and there was a Ranger there telling people to move on, that we couldn’t wait for hikers to come back and then poach their recently vacated spots. So we moved to Wahclella Falls, one of our favorite hikes, one we’ve done dozens of times. This time, though, we learned that we’ve reached that point—the one where hiking along a cliff’s edge with a 40-pound toddler on my back who’s thrashing back and forth in elation who we can’t tell stop, isn’t an option anymore. But the sky was clear and the sun was high and Fern was perfectly happy to employ those elated thrashes at the crest of the creek. The cold water didn’t bother her at all and the cause and effect of dropping rocks in the water was more exciting than the abstract and unreachable waterfall, 100 yards from where the trail ends. Fern made her fun, she manifested it, like she always does.
I’m constantly learning and relearning things from her, and this weekend’s lesson is one I often forget. In my experience, the trauma and pain of loss is most acutely felt in the little things, but through Fern I’m constantly retaught that the opposite is also true. Joy isn’t necessarily in the grand experience of a Family Hike to a Waterfall, it’s found in gently rolling snowmelt, in the sound a stone makes when it breaks through the surface tension; it’s in the shock of ice-cold water slipping into your boot. It’s diffuse and ubiquitous; you just have to make yourself susceptible to notice it.