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Dealing with Disappointment on the Trail

Can eyeballs 'smack' in anticipation, like lips? I think they can. At least that's what mine were doing the other day on a mountain bike ride on the Unc, as one commenter calls the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. I have a special fondness for wild roses, especially when I notice them for the first time, usually in mid-June. I am fond of the seasonal ritual.

But the first sighting of this June disappointed me. The roses were waning and withering. Too late.

Oh certainly, this is just a minor disappointment along the trail, but it seems valuable as a simple and quintessential representative of an entire class of disappointments.  It is important to decide what attitude we should have about these disappointments.

It caused me to recall something said by a bicycle tourer. It was one of those statements that sticks with you because it stands out from commonplace chatter.

He said that he only remembered the little disasters and misadventures that occurred on his tours. The perfect weather, the pretty scenery, and the days of smooth clock-like progress never stood out in his memory. Expressed more brutally, they were meaningless and forgotten. 

Here's another example of the right attitude from a cycle tourer on the Great Divide Route on :
But I went that way an hour ago. It didn't look right, it didn't feel right, it didn't match up with the next set of directions on my AC map. I am now three hours lost, it's 90 degrees, and I'm not riding the bike, I'm pushing. And there ain't no shade.
 You gotta love a guy like that!

So the wild roses were a dud. Now what? What is this disappointment good for? What would you have me do?


Well, sure as anything and you watch and think of me when it comes true—you're going to run into a late blooming bunch of wild roses. Just don't get too carried away with it all and start shooting postcard-worthy photos and all that, kind of like the one in this post (sego lily?).

John V said…
It's near the end, but they're still blooming in Northern, ID...:)
In case you are wondering, I didn't go looking for other flowers to ogle after my disappointment.
XXXXX said…
It would be interesting to contemplate the meaning of the original anticipation as well as the disappointment in missing it.
It is archetypal, the spring flowers in their prime signifying birth and growth, of which we all naturally relish. The waning and withering, of course, signifying a spent life and the ultimate death.
This process is deep in the fabric of humankind for we are able to be so aware of it through our human consciousness.
So, your question "What would you have me do?"
I think celebrate the cycle of life. Have a glass of wine in celebration of such a glorious life as a rose. It arises naturally, a true gift of nature. Pleases our human senses so well. And then gives up its life willingly and without regret only to be born again the next spring. A truly magnificent performance.
I did something like what you suggested: I stopped thinking of flowers as the object of interest, and started thinking about soil. It is the real Cause; the flower is just the Effect.

We never really think about soil. Most people are probably like me in knowing nothing about soil.

Soil is the epidermis of geology and the charnel house of dead flowers and plants. But soil isn't dead: all of those chemical nutrients and interactions between different chemicals, water, and air. And all those insects and rodents, who, unlike us, DO appreciate soil.

Soil is to plants what history is to civilization. Anyway that is what I thought about rather than be disappointed about the lack of wild roses.