This Rock Looks Loose
Been in a funk over the last week, so I went on a hike at Griffith to clear my head. While in the middle of my usual 60-minute trail, I decided to do something I had been wanting to do all year long — an endurance hike to the other side of the park.
Anytime over the last year that I felt frustrated with whatever was going on with my life, I would look over at Griffith and imagine this endurance hike. I’d trace the mountain with my feet from the Ponies to the Observatory, and have a cute little lunch at their cafe outside the planets room (the BEST room).
I’ve never actually mapped out this hike, though. I’ve just assumed from various hikes throughout the park over the years that the trails had to all connect. They did, but I wasn’t 100% sure until about 90 minutes in, and that moment was… pretty euphoric. After conquering an extremely steep peak that I had never tried before, I followed the trail with my eyes up to Dante’s View — a rest spot that connects to another trail that takes you straight down to the Observatory. My foolish plan to just wing it based on being someone who generally has a good sense of direction had worked out. That feeling RULES.
Within 20 minutes I had a new feeling: “WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING?!” I ended up scaling down the side of a mountain full of loose sand, through tiny non-trails surrounded by brush (which means snakes). I went from being my own hero, to my own parent, scolding myself every step of the way for having done this alone, having not told anyone I was going to be in a completely different part of the park than usual (where at least if I went missing there was a place to start looking), and for quite possibly getting myself killed because I’m 33 and been sorta depressed for half a week and wanted to accomplish something cool.
I debated whether I was going to call a Lyft to my car or hike back, and my mother’s voice in my head said, “You gotta do it all the way.” I took the lower trails this time, past the Greek and alongside the golf course off Commonwealth.
The feeling accompanying this section: judgment. So typical of me to choose to break myself out of a funk by doing some grand gesture to prove to myself what I’m capable of. Sweeping motivation to lift my own spirit. But I know full well that motivation is never something I’m lacking. It’s the ability to be meticulous in my day-to-day creative work that I struggle with.
Part of me began to see this physical event as punishment. For having left a half-written pilot script alone for almost a month. For not being emotionally invested in the script in the first place, because most of my creative endeavors are motivated by my insatiable need to check off boxes, and not to, in fact, express myself. As someone pursuing an artistic career, this personal knowledge often leaves me feeling cold and fraudulent in my art. If I told myself I’d write a pilot this year, there’s no question that I will. I don’t lack the self-discipline to make myself do what I say I will. But, in trying to simply say, “I did it,” I lack the detail and patience to make sure my final product is one that I’m fully, and meticulously invested in.
Throughout the day, I thought often of my favorite passage, from my favorite book:
“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.”
Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)
I tried to keep that in mind, stopping to take pictures of places I had never been on the trails before. Views I had never seen from that particular spot. Not just focusing on the end of the day as another “I did it,” but rather being able to walk away with a fully healing mental, emotional, and physical experience. Even later in the day, when I was exhausted, fighting the sunset, and ready to be off my feet — I tried to think of that passage as one I could take into my writing. To take each page, each scene, and immerse myself in it, not just for the sake of completion, but for the catharsis of writing for myself.
After 4 hours and 8 miles, I sat back down in my car and felt my funk had fully subsided. Mostly, probably, from how distractingly sore my legs were, but also because, I am who I am, and I’d get to check off a box I’d been itching to do all year.