Ups and Downs

You’ve probably noticed that I love the beach–I take lots of photos there and it’s a wonderful place for walking.  There’s the sea breeze, the beauty of the surroundings…and it’s pretty much flat, making walking easy.

So today, we decided to take a walk away from the beach.  In fact we went to a place that we knew would have some pretty significant uphill and downhill climbs.

And while there is something to be said about staying on the flat and keeping things on a even keel, there is value in the ups and downs too.

As we started up the gently slope it was easy to set a brisk pace even as I was looking around at the native plants and looking out over the vistas.  I could walk and talk and breathe.

vistas

The first part of the walk continued on a gentle incline.  We walked quickly without feeling labored and then began down a pretty steep decline.  Walking downhill does’t feel too hard…but I was remembering that I was going to have to walk back up that same slope.  And at the bottom there was a pretty steep incline in front of us.  And rather than turning around, we decided to continue up for a bit.  I could feel myself slowing down and my breathing becoming more labored as I headed upward.  And then, about halfway up I noticed a mushroom growing along the side of the trail.  Of course I had to stop, kneel low, and take a photo.

mushroom

When we turned around to head back, lots of steep uphill was in front of me.  I could feel my muscles, my heartbeat, and each and every breath I took.  And yet, I kept climbing and kept walking.  I had to give up talking for a bit…I needed my breath for the climb.  At the hardest point in the climb, the place I was ready to stop, I found myself noticing and naming the native plants.  I recognized the black sage, the lemonade berry, the alkali heath…

As the grade eased, so did my breathing and I began to enjoy the scenery again.  We could see evidence of the rain in the plants, tender green shoots and colorful blossoms decorating these often monochromatic plants.

natives

As the walk came to an end, I felt good.  The ups and downs made my body (and mind) work in some different ways than walking on the flat.  The peaks and valleys made me work harder, and I could feel myself working on both my stamina and my resolve as I walked.

There are many more steep trails that we haven’t yet tried, and in spite of the fact that I know they will feel hard, I can’t wait to head back and explore some more of them.  I have great admiration for the woman I watched run the same trail I had trudged.  I don’t aim to run that route, but I would love to improve my fitness by including more of these challenging walks in my repertoire.

I find myself thinking about ups and downs, peaks and valleys in the classroom too.  There are some climbs that leave us all winded, laboring to get to the next flat stretch.  But, like my experience today, the challenges help us build our stamina, increase our “fitness” for learning together, and remind us that even when things are hard, there are reasons to continue on.

What ups and downs do you experience?  What do they teach you about your life and learning?  I know that I will be including more ups and downs in my walking routine, but don’t worry, I’ll still make time for walks by the beach.

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