Ephemeral

I’m greeting the fall with insomnia.

This is a common occurrence. The seasons change, and I mark it with pock-marked sleep. It’s a ritual between nature and my nervous system, my circadian rhythm a secret Druid.

I don’t worry about it too much. Sleep and I have always had a tenuous relationship. It is the outdoor cat that I’ve learned to let wander away when it must — and I’ve learned that chasing after it only sends it further into the woods and causes my legs to get scratched up by the thicket.

It comes in different flavors. The bedtimes that require their own rituals of trickery, because a switch is somehow not being flipped. Or the witching hours that require my company, spending 3 or 4 a.m. outside of the dream world.

Maybe the ritual is more like a sacrifice. Appease the pagan gods with something other than goats or virgins.

Fall always feels like a fever breaking. The mania of the summer subsides. The drive to wake up at 3 a.m. for a hike is — in a fit of ironic timing — gone. My solar-powered batteries are a little less charged.

The world has shifted. It simultaneously feels like it is and isn’t in a state of superposition anymore — and I laugh at that bit of irony, too. I completed a hiking challenge when I thought my entire hiking season was on pause due to the pandemic. I’ve even returned back to (some) work — getting my wish to completely transition to trauma-informed yoga in monkey’s paw fashion. The lockdown-driven hysteria to learn all the recipes and do all the home improvement projects has subsided. The cooldown collides with my lost motivation to scan the transformed garden beds for weeds.

I’ve been feeling the space that a year of clearing out has created. It’s been a bit of a monkey’s paw wish there, too, at least in the beginning — what is the worst possible way to sort out what is good for your soul and what has been chipping away at it, and experience that on multiple occasions with multiple situations. But a violent sweep is still a sweep, and the broom still picks up what was on the floor. And I’m reassured knowing that the space I feel isn’t an empty room in the slightest; that I was simply making the needed accommodations for the things that were meant to come into my life.

(But it’s okay — perfectly, perfectly okay — to stand outside the room and sigh wearily into the wind and remind yourself, “you can love someone — you can love multiple people — deeply, and still recognize there is no place for them in your life anymore.”)

The irony is not lost on me that the only days I am not hearing 3 a.m.’s Siren call is when I want to wake up early for a hike.

I’m leaving later, no longer trying to beat out the raging heat, the swarm of tourists. Perhaps no longer trying to drain out batteries that always seem at risk of overcharging.

Hiking is a fascinating endeavor. For a hobby so beloved, it creates such discomfort and frustration and curse words mumbled under your breath. I find myself sometimes wondering why I’m doing it in the first place — a question asked the loudest during the most difficult sections of a hike.

Why am I doing these hikes when so often I’m in discomfort? What is the part that makes me feel it’s all worth it?

The summit? The views? The feeling of accomplishment? The forced focus on the present moment? The catharsis? The feeling like the woods are taking in what I’m radiating out?

That’s there, but there’s a different moment, a moment that carries more weight these days: it’s the moment I check the map, my GPS, when I read the topography and realize the worst is behind me. That I might still have a way to go until I hit the summit, but the hardest parts have already been accomplished.

And, perhaps in this stage in my life, that holds something in my soul way more than the rolling hills and majestic ranges in the distance: to be reminded through the trail that difficulties are temporary.

It’s all so temporary. So tragically, beautifully, delicately fleeting. The summit, the breeze, the ache. The good, the bad. The cherished and the disdained. The things that you sweep out of your life and the things that come into it in its place. The seasons and the shifts and the things you hold to the point of clinging to them.

Perhaps that’s why my body greets the new season with insomnia. As if my body knows just how ephemeral it all is and refuses to experience any of it with its eyes closed.

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