Thanksgiving Day Hike on the way to Comet Falls Near Mt. Rainier and an Understanding of True Gratitude
By Kat Carroll
Adytum Sanctuary guests all want to know about great hikes, nearby. Comet Falls, on the drive in to Mt. Rainier, is just that. In years past, before our optometry offices (Medical Vision Center and Martin Way Vision Center) were intense and busy, we’d take off in the early afternoon heading east from Morton the 45 minutes to reach Mt. Rainier to hike Paradise; and a true Paradise it is. Oftentimes we settled for hiking on the way to Comet Falls and perhaps see spectacular Narada Falls too instead of driving the distance to Paradise. There’s always something to see in the Pacific Northwest where Paradise, with its elevation at the 5400 feet level, sees an average of 126 inches of rain fall annually creating stunning waterfalls where you’d never expect them- many along the scenic drive in.
The Comet Falls hike engages immediately with natural stone forming steps, interlacing with the roots of ancient trees emerging on the surface to provide a foothold as well. Pathways can be so seductive, beckoning us on with the hopes of capturing the essence and thunderous force of a waterfall where we’d least expect to find one.
Walking among the company of old friends, The Ancients- Fir primarily, we forget cities, burdens, work, cares, and we are One with the Earth again as though we’d laid on its surface to soak in its energy and ground ourselves to Reality once more. This is Reality. Cities and schedules come and go. This is Life and it nurtures our spirits this Thanksgiving day.
Truly I can think of few more pleasurable ways to spend a holiday…I only wish my family were with me today as we make our way up the gentle rise toward the Falls. Thanksgivings are casualties of divorce and this one allowed my children to spend time with their father and some to serve others in working on this day of gratitude. But it was okay. I just wanted them to experience Life apart from what Thanksgiving has become in too many cases, not necessarily this one: Turkey, hard work for the women in the family, and football.
Nature naturally inspires gratitude. It is also an invitation to exist in the moment whether it entices us on a gentle upward rise toward beauty or engages fully as man summits a peak fighting forces of nature and his own exhaustion. To celebrate Thanksgiving in the mountains is the perfect way for me, today, to gain perspective.
What emerged was an intense gratitude not so much for the blessings in my life but for the hard spots. Trials. Places of resignation—of “I am willing to have this be so…” because I woke with The Breath of the Dragon
And this is what I carried into my hike on this Thanksgiving Day. Nature fed my spirit and I skipped the focus altogether on feeding my appetite. The first Thanksgiving focused on what the pilgrims most had need of: physical sustenance. This Thanksgiving, I have need of spiritual sustenance as things are in front of me that I balk at interiorly. So as I traversed the gentle slope to a magnificent waterfall that came so unexpectedly to intersect my meditative walk, I had been thinking of some people in my life who had horrific things intersect their lives—hard things and permanent things for which the tunnel would forever remain darkened with no light at the proverbial end. Gratitude was not only for the happinesses that are in my life but also that I was not chosen to bear such hard burdens this year. That year may come, when God deems me strong enough, but for this Thanksgiving Day, I marveled at the friends around me who WERE strong enough to bear hard things and face them not with resignation but with grace and full surrender, willing to be a Light to the rest of us and me in particular who will complain about the pebble in my shoe.
This Thanksgiving was filled with the admiration and awe of my dear friends who have earned such a place in the Universe that they are allowed to bear things which would make most of us melt. I have a new respect for adversity and thankfulness and blessing on this Thanksgiving Day is just a small part of embracing ALL that life has with thanksgiving, blessing it, surrendering to it not with resignation but welcoming it as a teacher.
A dear friend and mentor of mine suggested a book, A Treatise on Efficacy Between Western and Chinese Thinking by Francois Jullien and translated by Janet Lloyd. The Chinese thought process, which I very much respect, teaches to not seek to impact a situation by imposing our will upon it but to wait, watching for the advantage to reveal itself. This is the place where true power is found and it’s been true in my life in the past when things were hard; patiently waiting, acceptance, and finally reaching the place of gratitude opened the way for transformation where imposing will never did one thing but create frustration. The Western way opposes this thinking. The will is asserted over the situation and yet the outcome will remain unsure despite the aggressive template of will over conditions.
Thankfulness and gratitude assume new proportions this Thanksgiving because of learning the Chinese thought process. It is easy to be thankful for blessings and we in the Western World in particular have so very, very many. It is not so easy to be thankful for places we are being led where we have no desire to go but must. This Thanksgiving, spent in nature among my dear old friends, My Ancients, who have bent and swayed with many a storm and yet stand firm and strong, I have been taught that gratitude and thankfulness are not dependent on blessing but upon standing and standing firm despite the odds. And that those of my friends whom have been tested the most severely are the ones deserving least of my pity but more my awe and sincere admiration. One day perhaps I will be counted worthy to be among their number, bearing much and still standing to give thanks.