I broke down crying on the North Cascade Highway.
The mountains had reduced me to a blubbering mess. One hand on the steering wheel, one to my mouth, sobbing persistent, overwhelming, beautiful tears.
“The world is such a beautiful place,” I say to myself, by myself. “And I am so grateful to get to be a part of it.”
I have one song on repeat — a Spanish power ballad by Alejandro Fernandez. “Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti.” It crescendos in beat with the welling in my spirit.
Remove the context of the tears — remove the actual words I was saying — and one could’ve easily assumed I was in the grips of misery.
Perhaps it highlights the thin line between ecstasy & joy, and sorrow & pain. Not opposite sides of the spectrum or even opposite sides of the same coin. But twins you can only tell apart by their attire.
Both feelings can sweep your soul clean. It’s just we’ve been taught to only embrace one or the other.
Si, hoy tengo muchas ganas de ti.
The mountains don’t make my problems feel small but they do make my soul feel large.
I had scribbled that down the first time I saw Franconia Notch as an adult, during the worst summer of the worst year of my life. That excursion into the Pemi wilderness was the first semblance of peace I had felt in six months and the first taste of what I’d tap into if I could just lace up my boots.
Hoy tengo muchas ganas de esto.
This summer is a much different one than the summer of 2015. Or maybe it’s not — maybe it is also a twin with a different set of clothing. Maybe I’ve just grown to embrace all the things that are pure human experiences. The changes, the fears, the uncertainty. The hopes and happiness, and things I hold with cautious optimism.
The things that remind me where I’ve come from, the things that remind me where I’m going, and the things that remind me how far I’ve come — and where else I need to still go.
Who I was, back in 2015, is less like a twin and more like a distant cousin, someone I can intellectually understand is related to me, and if I squint I can see the resemblance. Perhaps this is what it looks like to sweep a soul clean, over and over and over again.
I needed to be here. In the Cascades. And to think, this was a last minute addition, something to do to fill out the last days in the Pacific Northwest.
But isn’t that the best part of the human experience? The things that sneak up on you and surprise you when you think you have it all planned out?
(Metaphors. Metaphors everywhere.)
I needed to be here. To be not just be reminded of the divine but be overwhelmed by it.
And I want that. Overwhelm me. Overfill my cup, even if it does reduce me to tears in one form or another, at one point or another. I don’t have time for the tepid.
I smirk as I hear a voice in the back of my head: wherever you’d been, that’s where you needed to have been.
Given how the last couples of years have been, that can be hard to believe. But I choose to believe that every shard of rock on this path has given whatever cuts were necessary — whether to point out weaknesses in my gait or to just remind me of the searing wonder of life.
And in the end, they were all pure human experiences. And it’s pure human folly to only regard the easier ones, to try to disregard what forcefully swept my soul clean (…once I let it).
Yes, this life is so beautiful. And I am so grateful to be a part of it.
Siempre, tengo ganas del mundo.
Not every spot in the Cascades hits so hard.
Some are simply to be strolled out to. The breeze, the river, the sunlight. The mountains, now partially covered in clouds. Where there is nothing to do but lean toward — lean in — and feel calm.
Sometimes it’s okay for things to just gently sweep over you.
The beautiful, the brutal, and the serenity the falls in between them. Different members of the same family.