While flying across a pretty good piece of our very expansive country yesterday, I was struck once again, by the very different perspective you get from high above the ground. We've lived and spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains and I've often been conscious of how easy it can be to get "turned around" when you're not paying sufficient attention to where you are. Trails can intersect and switchback, or one trail can look very much like another. Dense woods or forest canopy can obscure known landmarks and peaks. National Park wardens recount many stories of lost, or at least "unintentionally bivouacked" hikers.
For example. We were out mushroom picking last fall and, even though we were never much more than several hundred meters from where we'd left the vehicle, I was very aware of how easy it could be to wander off and get, ahh, temporarily "dislocated". (Guys don't easily admit to getting lost.) On the way in, we'd taken several rough logging roads into the fairly remote interior of the Island. Situation awareness sometimes takes a back seat to a focused search for that prized chanterelle or cauliflower mushroom. Eyes are down and scanning the forest floor as you negotiate fallen trees and low branches - and the only thing on your mind is the magnificent culinary "treasure" that awaits. You find a great patch and then another and then another and it gets pretty exciting and then...hmm, "now which direction did we come from?"
A light aircraft flying above us would have easily seen and interpreted the terrain where we were picking these delicacies. They would have observed that we were, in fact, in the middle of a "triangle" formed by three narrow logging roads. From their perspective, all we would have to do is walk in one direction - any direction - and we would find ourselves on a road. From our perspective, however, we were just in deep, dark, damp, woods. Yeah I know, we should have looked at a topo map before we went out! But we knew we were with a very knowledgable guide who would have found us! Granted, no excuse.
Anyway, from 39,000 feet up, flying in a jet, I had a picture of what it would be like to be somewhere down amidst those magnificent, snow-covered British Columbia mountains. If you'd tumbled down a ravine or taken the wrong path, you could feel very alone and very far away from another human being. From my perspective looking down from my WestJet window seat (8A), however, everything looked pretty clear. I could see a highway, a small community, and just out of the image above, a ski resort. Point is, it was all very clear from high up in the air - not so clear, on the ground in amongst the trees and the deep gullies.
We need a clear perspective. With all that's going on in the world today and perhaps even in our own personal lives, we need to do whatever it takes to get that "higher perspective" so that we avoid the experience of feeling "lost". You probably know what I mean.
To get that "higher" perspective, elevation gain is not the only thing that works. I always "see" more clearly during a run, or while paddling on the water, or after a good heart-pumping hike to a high place. The simple act of physical exertion seems to do it. The "fog" dissipates, the senses sharpen, solutions come to mind, and the thinking process is better able to focus where it needs to focus. Some folks sort things out and achieve that special clarity by spending some time in the garden, or writing in a journal, or enjoying a hobby, or sitting by the shore listening to and watching the waves unfold on the beach. Whatever works is time well spent. When our perspective is clear, we feel more confident, we feel stronger, we feel we can handle whatever comes our way. It's worth whatever effort it takes to achieve the "elevation gain"...and the clarity.
So do what you gotta do.
Image above from out the WestJet window, somewhere over the Rockies.