Higher Living Reflections

Making Magic: Act III

Smokebeard emanated a different energy than Pat. Not better, not lesser, just different. With Pat, I sensed focus and resolute determination. In the tug and pull between to be or not to be, Pat was very much going to be. There was a goal to be reached, an accomplishment to be made, and another notch to be marked in his belt of feats. It made sense given his age. He was physically strong and was in the full bloom of his young adult years. I recall my own well and eat up the tales of thirty-something men who have moved past the wild exuberance of ephebic adulthood and haven’t yet entered middle age.

Smokebeard had been there and done that. He was well ensconced in his middle years and carried himself accordingly. He moved at his own pace, steadily and surely. He operated in the present tense. What would happen in future time would happen when it happened. No need to focus on or rush to get to it. He was a man with a story and seemed to take pleasure in relating it those interested in hearing it. So he took time and chatted it up with Liz and me.

I had never heard of Fuchs’ (pronounced “fewkes”) dystrophy, but Liz had. It is usually inherited and ran in Smokebeard’s family. Smokebeard was in the early stages of the disease and wanted to raise awareness and fundraise for the cause. It was the primary reason he was hiking the Continental Divide Trail.

I was curious so listened attentively to the exchange between Smokebeard and Liz. They educated me sufficiently until I could research it further. I learned more about the disease through the Mayo Clinic website, and the description was heartbreaking. In Fuchs’ dystrophy, fluid builds up in the cornea of the eye, which causes it to swell and thicken. Vision slowly becomes impaired to the point it becomes completely distorted.

“It’s like looking at the world through bubble wrap,” Smokebeard told us. His eyesight was deteriorating as we spoke. Incrementally but inexorably.

I told Smokebeard, as I did with Eric, Marcie, and Liz, that I was an essayist and was contemplating composing an essay on magic, which in Smokebeard’s case didn’t seem to be a magical time. If anything, dark magic, yet here he was. I told them their names would be mentioned because they were the stars of that day that illuminated me about finding and making the magic in life.

Smokebeard and I exchanged cards, and just as we did, two younger backpack-toting men appeared from the trees. They looked to be in their mid-thirties with strong upper bodies. My smile widened. Four on one day hiking the CDT was too many to be coincidental. It had to be synchronistic.

“I take it you’re hiking the Continental Divide Trail,” I said.

They beamed in affirmation. “He is,” one said pointing to his partner, “I’m only doing the Colorado portion of it.”

“Only,” I laughed. “A mere matter of a couple hundred miles.”

Our trail meetup was now five, and Smokebeard seemed to relish getting to know his trail mates. They kibbitzed a bit. “Only Colorado” got a snapshot of the two CDT hikers grinning widely with their arm upon the other’s shoulders in a hiker embrace. Liz and I stood back and smilingly took in the magic that was unfolding.

I could’ve stayed longer, but I knew they needed to get moving. So I made a lame excuse about needing to go. I wished them all well, reminded Liz about Eric and Marcie, and promised Smokebeard I’d check out his site. I put my hands together in prayer fashion, bowed slightly, and said, “Namaste.”

I think of Smokebeard and of that day from time to time and follow him via his blog that he periodically updates. At the time of this writing, he is probably in Wyoming with Montana ahead. His words on his blog speak to how the ordeal has taken its toll. Yet he seems to be undaunted. Determined, though his determination seems different from Pat’s. Pat’s world is expanding and full of promise, Smokebeard’s diminishing, closing in, growing dimmer. I wonder if Pat in his youth is cognizant of the magic around him. I suspect Smokebeard very much is. No matter the strain of the ordeal in which he is engaged and the promise of the grim road that lies ahead for him visually.

To be continued.

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