Gone Awry

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley, / An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, / For promised joy.
— Robert Burns "To A Mouse "
A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside, at last, reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one but found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no way. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert whispered: ‘The wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream’...
— Awad Afifi "Tale of the Sands"

"Best laid plans..." You know the rest. 


When I got a call from an early arrival to the trailhead to let me know the we wouldn't be hiking to Sturtevant Falls that day, I thought it was a joke. Surely not. A bear attack? That wasn't anywhere on the agenda. 

Yet, as we pulled up to the road blockage and read the hastily printed note taped to the caution sign, our plans were well and truly tossed. In our fervent rush to salvage whatever we could from the day, there was room for some nervous laughs and levity but I didn't spare much thought for the irony. 

Last month, I shared a quote from Alan Watts to underline a call for being present: 

"While it is of tremendous use for us to be able to look ahead and to plan, there is no use planning for a future, which when you get to it and it becomes the present, you won’t be there. You will be living in some other future which hasn’t yet arrived."

My own exposition on the subject?

"So often we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with memory or with expectation - dragged from the present reality to the past or future in all its abstract appeal. Yet, in the wilderness, in an elementary world (mostly) often immune to the touch of our anxieties, we can sink into the stories our feet are writing... "

If I'd had a moment to remember what I'd written, the words might have tasted a bit like bear fur and bullshit.

For all my confident ramblings on being present and in the moment and leaving the future and the past in their own abstract to be free of anxiety, I always expect that my plans will find fruition. When they don't, I have a tendency to fall apart. 

Luckily, I had a team of Wanderers to laugh and joke and google and practice bear calls with as we quickly found a nearby trail with convenient parking, a playground for the kiddos, and a lovely shady expanse of grass to picnic in. 

It was almost like we planned it. 

That is, until we hit the trail! It was much more difficult than the one we were expecting. It was hot as hell and all uphill and lugging babies, and hernia-nursing priests up a mountain was far from what we had envisioned. We were unknowingly a few minutes and a couple of winding bends away from the beautiful, sun-spotted stream at the end of the trail when we considered just turning back. We didn't. 

Sinking toes into the icy water at the end of a sweat-soaked, dusty trail has a way of bringing you to that present and presence Alan Watts tried to tell us about. Children squealing as they splash and dogs barking and plastic wine cup passing and sour-dough bread chewing have a way of reminding you that nothing that you can plan could ever compare with what is

That's why we wander. 

~ Payton

Click to read the full “Tale of Sands”

Payton Hoegh