Small Wonders: Taking it three feet at a time

February 18, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

There is a hill in Griffith Park, a meandering two-lane asphalt scar cut into the brown and green, that takes you away from the busier arteries through the park. It's a short hill; a way to get from A to B no faster, perhaps, than any other route. But it is my nemesis.

It starts at Travel Town and ends at the playground called Shane's Inspiration. You could go the reverse way, of course — from Shane's to trains. Nothing wrong with that. But I find that only when one starts with travels do they find their inspiration.

When I'm feeling good about myself, I ride my bike up that hill. And when I'm not feeling good about myself, I ride my bike up that hill. Not because I want to, mind you. Not because I enjoy it or because it gives me pleasure. I hate it.


It's exhausting. It's trying, humbling and torturous. And I don't always make it.

But it is my choice to try.

This hill is where I search for answers — for columns, for insights and, yes, inspiration. A place to physically manifest an invisible obstacle; to make real that which can't be comprehended by our limited cerebral and spiritual capacities. Like communion.

The temperature drops when you enter the glen, as it always does when you find yourself within the fray. People speak of the heat of battle, of trials by fire. But when it is you alone with the goblins of your mind and the world is a vacuum of time and space, it's cold.

I start up its slope in high gear, grinding and determined. But quickly, at the first sign of steeper grade, I switch to a lower, easier gear. I immediately regret my decision and consider turning around, wanting to let the natural forces of the world take me back into their welcoming, non-combative embrace. And sometimes I do turn back. But when I don't …

My eyes wander about the shaded canyon, taking in the oak, sumac and scrub brush that is the background of our Southern California life. Alone with my thoughts and my aching, winded body, my frightened mind begs me to look up. Look up and see how much farther there is to go.

It's a fool's choice.

Why? Because you see just how much farther you have to go, of course. Or worse yet, you won't even see the top of the hill.

There is only one place to look. And it is the hardest place to stay focused.

Three feet ahead.

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