The wind, already brisk, picked up unexpectedly. I watched as my friend’s baby carrier began to shift against its strength, and then slide away across the rock surface. “Quick! Grab it!” I shouted to someone. Anyone. But no one seemed to be paying any attention. Steadying myself against the wind, I made a swipe for it, but my balance was challenged by the uneven terrain and I stumbled.
Suddenly, my hat began to lift off of my head and I clamped the palm of my hand down forcefully over its top. “Oh, come on!” I thought to myself, cursing this sudden course of events and my lack of control over them. Just when it seemed all was lost, my brother saw the baby carrier as it flew across the top of the cliff, and nabbed it before it was lost forever. I sighed with relief.
We had made it to the top of the LaCloche mountain range in Killarney Provincial Park in beautiful Sudbury, Ontario. It was the perfect day for a hike – cool, yet sunny, with just the barest wisp of clouds above us. Aside from complications caused by the brisk wind at the top, we were all feeling pretty elated. It had been a tough climb, but the view was magnificent. Well worth all the effort it took to get there. Feeling profoundly moved by the view, we settled down together at the top and enjoyed a moment of silence. Our new perspective was broad and serene. From this height, all the problems in my life suddenly seemed far, far away.
The landscape in northern Ontario is spectacular. Jagged, rocky cliffs are topped by grand forests of coniferous trees threaded through with cool streams and and the bubbling spray of waterfalls. All along our way to the top, I had stopped to take pictures, struck again and again by the beauty of our surroundings. “You know, it’s the same lake,” my husband would remind me, somewhat bemused by the number of pictures I was taking. “Same lake, different perspective,” I would quip back, undeterred.
And indeed, the perspective did change as we clambered higher and higher up the cliffs. In one spot, the sun suddenly emerged from behind the clouds, causing the water to glitter and shine. In another, the lake appeared larger, as the trees diminished in size beneath us. Later, as we came back down the perspective changed again, with the bright morning sunshine now replaced with a calmer, yellow glow. The streams that had seemed joyful and energetic on our way up, now seemed slower and wiser. The crickets came out and warned us of summer’s end.
As I sought out more and more great shots, each one more beautiful than the next, the dizzying array of perspectives began to get to me. It was starting to remind me a little too much of myself and the way I’ve always valued the perspective of other people more than my own. In fact, I’ve never really felt like I had a much of a perspective at all, which may sound odd to those who don’t understand co-dependency.
If you’ve never heard the term before, co-dependents grow up in households where they are either abused or ignored, and in order to feel loved or valued, we assume a people-pleasing role. More than anything else, we fear abandonment, and so to secure our role within the family, we begin to cater to the needs of our parents, hoping that if they are kept as happy as possible, we will be seen and loved. It rarely works. Nevertheless, we become so desperately attuned to the feelings and opinions of others, that we become little more than empty shells ourselves.
On that day, as I sat on the top of that cliff, with my belongings buffeted by the wind, I finally began to get a sense of my own perspective and its importance. It came silently as I watched a small, coniferous tree that had somehow planted itself among the rocks, right near the edge of the cliff. Despite the harsh weather surrounding it, it stood tall. In any other place, it might have looked small and insignificant. But here, it was a strong survivor, possessing a surprising, and awe-inspiring tenacity.
As I held on to my hat and watched that tree, I imagined the wind blowing away all the other perspectives in my life. The only one that really mattered was my own. Just like that tree, only I had seen all the events of my life, and everything I had gone through. Only I truly knew how I felt about anything. If I wanted to survive like this tree, I knew I would have to cling to my own perspective. I would have to start listening to my own heart and follow my own longings.
And what did I love? Well, for one thing, I had loved this hike. I had loved the challenge of it. I had loved the difficulty. All the way to the top, I had doubted my ability to complete it. I had told myself I might not make it, and yet, here I was, all the way at the top. I had done it! It was a wonderful, powerful feeling. I began to feel like that tree, small and lop-sided, but with a core of strength that only a few were aware of. As the wind blew around us, I began to feel a change within myself.
“We’d better get going if we want to make it back down before dark,” my brother warned. I nodded and began to gather up our things, already mentally preparing myself for the difficult descent. I looked up at the sky, and noticed a bird flying high above us. It struggled against the high winds, turning and shifting its wings as it determinedly followed its own path. I nodded, recognizing its challenge, and then took my own first step down toward the ground, vowing to hold tight to my own, unique perspective and do the same.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has an honours degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo, and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.