On Right, Wrong, and High Horses

Edited March 22, 2013, 6:45 PM: Well, I’ve got egg all over my face, thanks to someone posting a comment with my niece’s email address. Thinking the comment came from her — and getting upset by the thought that she’d write such a thing — I said some things here that I now regret. I’ve since modified this post to remove the passages she might find offensive. My apologies to her. I only wish that we were closer; I would have called her to discuss the comment attributed to her before referring to her in this blog post. I would have also called to apologize for my error and any pain it may have caused her. – ML

An explanation for those who don’t understand.

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about my divorce and the emotional turmoil it’s putting me through. Although it’s not easy for me to do, it’s something I feel I must do. It’s part of my healing process, recommended by my grief counselor; writing out my thoughts and feelings help me to understand them. The blog posts not only help me (obviously) get things off my chest, but they document this difficult part of my life. And as I’ve discovered lately by the outpouring of supportive blog comments, email messages, and even Twitter and Facebook responses, other people have also been benefiting from the way I’ve been revealing and discussing my open wounds here in my blog.

I was surprised and saddened the other day, however, to get the following comment on my blog post, “On Marital Infidelity,” posted by someone using my niece’s email address:

get off your horse and smell the roses.You and only you and him can work it out, not by blasting away.Stop and move on like you always do.

It turns out that the comment was posted by my brother-in-law — my niece’s father — for reasons I’ll never understand. It seems truly idiotic that he used his daughter to get under my skin. He should know better than to post such a thing without expecting a response. He knows firsthand how the ordeal of my divorce is affecting me. His comment was hurtful and uncalled for; pinning it on his own daughter was inexcusable.

But rather than go on and on about that, I want to focus on what he said.

My High Horse and the Roses I Need to Smell

The Urban Dictionary offers several definitions of “high horse.” I’m pretty sure my brother-in-law means the first:

Arrogantly believing oneself superior to others, often by putting down large groups of people. In usage, such a person is described as “on a high horse” or may be told to “Get off your high horse.”

Apparently, my brother-in-law believes that I’ve taken a superior attitude in the situation of my divorce — that I think I’m better than others. I’ve given this a lot of thought. The only way he could possibly interpret my thoughts and feelings — as expressed in my blog posts — as evidence of a superior attitude is because he doesn’t understand the simple concept of what’s right and what’s wrong.

That made me wonder whether this is something (1) my brother-in-law doesn’t understand or (2) today’s society doesn’t understand.

In any case, it’s worth explaining; I’ll get to that in a moment.

My brother-in-law also apparently believes that I’m putting down my husband. My recent blog post, “Wanted: A Strong Man,” can probably be seen as a put down — although that’s not the post he commented on. It was a difficult post for me to write, mostly because of what I said near the middle of it: he wasn’t always a weak man. But I think I was honest. And I think the people who know him well — including, ironically, my brother-in-law — would agree with many (if not all) of my observations. Instead of looking at it as a put down, perhaps my brother-in-law should think of it more as a diagnosis of a problem — something my husband could fix if he wanted to, probably with professional help.

But I don’t believe anything I said in the post commented on — “On Marital Infidelity” — could be considered a put down. That is, unless my brother-in-law believes there’s nothing wrong with marital infidelity. More on that in a moment.

The Urban Dictionary also defines “slow down and smell the roses“:

this means stop stressing out, overthinking, or complaining. put your troubles in perspective and try to enjoy the short time you have on earth.

I’ve been getting versions of this from several people who don’t understand the gravity of my situation and the way it is affecting — and will affect — my life. It’s easier said than done.

Try, for a moment, to put yourself in my shoes. I’m 51 years old. I spent more than half of my life with a man I loved, someone who I trusted implicitly with my life. I have 29 years — now nearly 30 years — of memories with this man. Nearly seven years ago, I made the ultimate commitment to our relationship by marrying him, standing before a judge and witnesses to recite vows — promises — that actually meant something to me. I thought they meant something to him, too.

Oddly, things with our relationship started going bad not long after we made those vows. Perhaps he thought they would change our relationship? I don’t know. He never told me what he expected from me. He never told me what I was doing that he didn’t like. Instead, communications shut down and, after 29 years together, he actively sought a replacement for me — while leading me to believe, through actions, lies, and misleading statements, that he wanted to fix the problems with our relationship. He hooked up with the first woman who would take him and, after less than a month with her, dumped me on my birthday.

And since then, he and his new mommy have been fighting me in court and harassing me, trying to take away everything I’ve worked so hard for all my life.

And I’m supposed to “smell the roses”?

I don’t see any roses here. Do you?

Working it Out

The comment also included this cryptic phrase: “You and only you and him can work it out…”

I find this particularly painful because I’ve been trying since June to work this out with my husband. I can even argue that I’ve been trying since last March when I went to the marriage counselor at his request, hoping to fix the problem.

Although my husband’s initial request for a divorce came over the phone, it also came with lies about why he wanted the divorce. And since then he has agreed to meet with me in person only once — two weeks after that initial request. That lengthy meeting — full of tears on both sides, was also full of lies from him. And since then, he refuses to meet with me.

Do I need to share each of the long email messages I sent him, pleading with him to understand my feelings and explain himself to me? The mournful texts — like the one I sent him after dreaming about having sex with him? The angry texts — like the ones I sent after he left me copies of email messages I’d written that he’d been saving since 2008, apparently to take them out of context and use them as ammunition against me? Do I need to share every single attempt I’ve made over the years to try to get him to talk to me?

My brother-in-law should understand this. After all, I spent 90 minutes sobbing over the phone to him just a few weeks ago. Why the hell does he think I now cry every single day of my life? Why I can’t have a simple conversation with my lawyer without bursting into tears? Why I’m crying now?

So tell me: how am I supposed to “work it out” with my husband when he’s failed to be honest in any of our discussions so far and now refuses to talk to me? How am I supposed to get closure on this when I still don’t understand why he was willing to throw away everything we had together? Why he cheated and lied to me?

How can I get past this when I can’t get answers? When I can’t understand how a man who was so good and honest and loyal could do this to his partner of 29 years?

Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Bad

Let’s step aside from all that and get back to the main topic of this post: my “high horse.”

It all comes down to my feelings regarding right and wrong, good and bad.

Throughout my life, I’ve developed a very strong sense of moral and ethical values: a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Simply said, I believe people should do the right thing, the good thing. I believe that the world would be not just a better place, but an amazing place, if we all did the right thing whenever we possibly could.

I touched upon this briefly in a December blog post that I wrote when I was trying to understand why my husband had lied to me: “What is Truth?” Honesty is right, honesty is good, honesty is something we owe to each other — especially the people who trust us. Lying is wrong, lying is bad, lying destroys trust and lives.

How about marital vows — you know, the “love, honor, and cherish until death do us part” stuff people recite when they marry. Doesn’t that mean anything to anyone?

Is it right to make a vow like that and then lie to your spouse? Is it right to make a vow like that and then cheat on your spouse? Is it right to make a vow like that and then lock your spouse out of her home and business property? To fight her in court in an attempt to make her homeless and keep her from her possessions? To subject your spouse to harassment week after week and month after month, hoping that she just gives you what you want and goes away?

Am I the only one who thinks that’s wrong?

And no, “everyone does it” doesn’t make it right, so stop feeding me — and yourself — that bullshit line. It’s wrong, pure and simple. No one can deny it. There is no excuse.

In my blog post about truth, I considered the fact that I might be naive. My brother-in-law’s comment on my blog post gives me reason to think about that again.

Am I part of a small minority of people who understands the difference between right and wrong? Or maybe just a minority that cares?

Have today’s societal values degraded so far that people no longer care about what’s right or wrong? To the point where someone who is being wronged is considered to be complaining from a “high horse”?

Have things gotten that bad?

Fighting for What’s Right

The Apparent Irony of An Atheist Fighting for What’s Right

I have to digress for a moment and a sidebar is the best place to do that.

As some people know, I’m an atheist. That means I don’t believe there’s a god (by any name) who oversees the universe, makes things happen, answers prayers, and punishes those who “sin.”

A lot of religious folks who don’t understand atheism think that atheists are bad. They think that it’s impossible to conduct yourself morally without the fear of God’s wrath when you do something bad. Oddly, these are often people who demonstrate low moral standards by lying, stealing, cheating on their wives, breaking laws, hurting others, etc. I’m not sure why they think this is okay — perhaps they don’t but are relying on God’s forgiveness to get into Heaven when they die. It’s almost as if their belief in God and their willingness to go to church and/or confess sins has given them a free pass to do whatever they want, no matter how wrong it is.

I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can speak for myself. I try hard to do what’s right and good because it’s right and good. I try to avoid doing what’s wrong and bad because it’s wrong and bad. I don’t have a god — I have something far more powerful: a conscience. My conscience is with me every day and it guides all of my actions. When I do something wrong, I pay for it immediately — with a sense of guilt: a guilty conscience.

Isn’t that more effective than relying on some supernatural being to reward or punish you when you die?

A handful of my friends have advised me to “give him what he wants and get on with your life.” Those people don’t understand me or what’s driving me. And apparently, neither does my husband.

Because although my husband seems to have forgotten the difference between right and wrong, I haven’t. And although my husband apparently thinks that I don’t care about what’s right and wrong, he’s very much mistaken. (I guess it’s just another example of how we’ve grown apart over the years.)

My good friends and most family members understand why I’m still dealing with all of this nearly nine months after my husband made the call that ruined every single birthday I’ll have for the rest of my life.

I have been wronged. I cannot simply walk away without fighting for what’s right.

I was discussing this with a friend a few weeks ago. He said he understood completely. “You have to be able to live with the person you see in the mirror,” he told me.

His words triggered an epiphany. It’s not about being difficult or seeking revenge. It’s not about putting people down or making judgements from a “high horse.”

It’s the simple fact that if I did not fight for what I thought was right, I’d never be able to live with myself. I’d never again be able to respect the person I see in the mirror.

I knew it all along but didn’t understand it until my friend made it clear.

And I think that’s why I began blogging more frankly about my situation. I wanted to clearly state my case. I wanted make it clear what I was dealing with. I wanted to make it clear why I was suffering so badly. Why I still cry so much — sometimes over the smallest things. The pain of being wronged is so incredibly fierce within me.

I expected readers to connect the dots — to see that I’d been wronged and draw the conclusion that I was fighting for what was right.

And then my brother-in-law’s comment appeared. That’s when I realized that not everyone understood my situation and what was driving me. I realized that although right vs. wrong is important to me, it’s not important — or even of concern — to everyone. Including, apparently, my brother-in-law.

And that makes me sad.

An Overnight Hiking Escape, Part I: Sedona

Sometimes, it’s just good to get away.

On Sunday, I joined the Phoenix Atheist Meetup Group for another one of their excellent hikes. This one was in Sedona, at the Soldier Pass Trail.

Sedona is not exactly next door to Wickenburg. It’s a good 2-1/4 hour drive if you drive hard on the scenic route that goes through Yarnell, Wilhoit, Prescott,Jerome, and Cottonwood. It had been a long time since my last mountain road drive with my Honda S2000 — in fact it might even have been way back in December when my soon-to-be ex-husband and I drove to Palm Springs for some kind of work-related event he had to attend. I definitely don’t drive that car enough. This hike was a good excuse to take it out on the twisty mountain roads.

(Of course, if the helicopter was in town, I would have just flown up there. From Wickenburg, it’s not even an hour flight. But that was not an option on Sunday.)

I left right around 6:30 AM to meet the group at the trailhead at 9:15 AM. It was just Penny the Tiny Dog and me, top down, speeding through the still-cool desert air. It was a typical cloudless day, and I suspected it would get pretty hot back in Wickenburg — definitely into the 90s. Another excuse to get the hell out of town.

Highway 89 Through MountainsI can’t really express the joy I feel driving a tight-steering sports car with plenty of performance at high speed on otherwise empty mountain roads. Two weeks ago Sunday was the first time I’d driven my car since leaving Arizona in early May. A few trips to Phoenix helped reacquaint me to its feel. But this Sunday, as I sped toward Sedona, we were fully reacquainted. I especially enjoyed the stretch of Highway 89 in the Prescott National Forest between Wilhoit and Prescott. The stretch of Highway 89A between The Yavapai Country Fairgrounds and Jerome would have been even better if I weren’t stuck behind a slow Prius for most of the trip.

We arrived in Sedona at about 8:45 AM — early enough for me to take Penny for a walk, get a second cup of coffee, and buy another bottle of water. Well, I thought it was enough time. Apparently, Heart of Sedona Coffee has the world’s slowest barrista. I ordered my coffee, paid, found and used the rest room, came back to retrieve my coffee, and still had to wait 10 minutes for him to finish making it. I wouldn’t mind, but there had been only one person ahead of me when I ordered. WTF? We rushed back to the car and made the short drive to the trailhead, arriving five minutes late and getting the last parking space.

The group was assembling and I wasn’t ready. I was still wearing jeans; it would be hot enough to wear shorts. If I’d been thinking clearly, I would have gotten changed at the coffee shop restroom. Instead, I hid behind a holly bush and got changed there. There comes a point in your life where you really don’t care who sees that you’re wearing panties with little pink flowers on them.

After a group photo and intros, we hit the trail. There were about 10 of us and one other person, Scott, had brought along his two small dogs. It wasn’t long before he let them off leash, so I decided to give Penny a try. She was great, either sticking with the other dogs or other hikers in our group. I didn’t have to worry about her at all. And Scott took really great care of his dogs and Penny, giving them frequent opportunities to drink and nibble on dog kibbles. (I wound up paying for his lunch later on to thank him.)

Soldiers Pass TrailThe Soldier Pass Trail is an easy-to moderate trail that starts at the edge of a subdivision and climbs into the red rocks north of Sedona. It has several interesting features: a sinkhole, several small pools of water, petroglyphs (rock art), and arches. A Jeep trail runs for a short distance in the area, making it possible to access the sinkhole and pools by high clearance vehicle. We stayed off the Jeep road and stuck to the trail.

The trail meandered through red rock and sandy terrain, starting out with just enough shade to keep you cool when you stopped for rests. This group is not a power-hiking group — we each hike at our own pace and can usually find enough other people at that pace to make small subgroups. Occasionally, most of us would wind up together in a shady spot for a rest or to take photos — for example, at the sink hole and later at the pools.

Coffee Pot Rock
A shot of coffee pot rock from the edge of the sinkhole.

The Sphinx

I’m pretty sure this rock formation is called the Sphinx; the sinkhole is in the foreground.

The trail climbed slowly but steadily — never enough to get me really winded. But the temperature was climbing steadily, too, and I’m still not accustomed to Arizona’s insane heat. I was sweating like a pig, so glad I’d changed into that pair of shorts. After a while, the taller vegetation thinned out and the trail was mostly in full sun. At around the same time, it started to get steeper, climbing up toward Brins Mesa. Fortunately, it also started to cloud up and that gave us some relief from the sun. A nice breeze also felt good against my sweaty skin when we paused in scant shade.

Rest Stop at Top of Trail

We stopped in the shade of this tree for about 20 minutes before heading back down the way we’d come.

We never saw the petroglyphs, but we did see the arches from a distance. I recall thinking that it wasn’t worth climbing up to them, but later, when we stopped about 2 miles up the trail, we were already higher than they were. There was a great resting place just short of the Brins Mesa trail, with a tree providing plenty of shade for six or seven of us to take a break. The view back toward town confirmed the fact that we’d climbed about 450 feet in elevation.

One of us, Prescott Jim, decided to go back along the Brins Mesa trail. That would add at least a mile to his return trip. Although I like doing loop trails, it was pretty obvious that the Brins Mesa trail would be almost entirely in full sun. I’d already sweat off a quart of water and wasn’t interested in losing two more the same way. We went alone and still managed to beat all of us back to the trailhead.

Going down was quicker and easier. We made fewer stops. I ran out of water and Scott very kindly gave me a bottle that he’d somehow managed to keep cold.

At the end of the trail, we gathered, rested, and had cold pop or beer. Then we hustled back into the cars and headed out to the Olde Sedona Grill. Although we had to carry the dogs through the restaurant, they were able to join us on the outdoor patio. All three of them were exhausted; Penny went right to sleep beside my chair and the poor waiter almost stepped on her three times while serving.

After settling up the bills, we went our separate ways. While everyone else headed back to Phoenix or Prescott, Penny and I hopped back onto Route 89A for a nice drive up Oak Creek Canyon. We’d be spending the night in Flagstaff for another day of hiking on Monday.

(Continued in Part II)

Canyon Hike with New Friends

Nature + intelligent people + good conversation = a great time.

One of the reasons I’ve been so unhappy living in Wickenburg over the past few years is the lack of friends my own age who have similar interests.

As the years went by and Wickenburg shifted from being a ranching/tourist town to being a retirement community, all of our young friends moved away. There was Barb and Barry, who moved to New Mexico. Then Janet and Steve, who moved to Colorado. Then Lance and Keri, who moved to (of all places) Michigan. Some of our young, seasonal friends — John and Lorna come to mind — prefer hanging out with the old folks at the retirement community where they park their RV for half the year, opting for an ice cream social over a Jeep ride in the desert or a coffee gathering over a hike up Vulture Peak.

Because the town doesn’t offer enough employment opportunities for young people, it’s population continues to age, with more older folks coming here to retire, at least seasonally. I — or we, I guess I could still say — have quite a few friends old enough to be my parents. Sadly, most of these folks are not nearly as active as we are. And every year, when I return from my annual migration to Washington for work, I discover that one or more of them has died: Pete, Bill, Danny — rest in peace.

It’s depressing for someone like me who wants to remain active. While it was tolerable while I still had a husband at home — at least we could do things together on weekends — with him gone, the situation is bad. I decided to get proactive to find some friends.

I turned to Meetup.


Meetup is a social networking service that makes it easy to find and meet up with — in person — people with similar interests for all kinds of activities. I’ve been a member for years and, in the past, have used it to hook up with a photography group based in the Phoenix area and a social group in the Wenatchee area. Last week, I worked it hard, looking for Meetup groups that might do activities near where I live. I didn’t expect to find any in Wickenburg — indeed, there are no Meetup groups within 25 miles of Wickenburg — but I found quite a few in the Phoenix area that do activities all over the state.

Last week, after hitting the Arrowhead Mall for a makeup consultation, I joined the 39 and Holding Club‘s “Hump Day” dinner, which was being held at Chili’s in Surprise, AZ. Although it was more than 30 miles from my Wickenburg home, it was still on the way home from the mall. It was a nice evening out with pleasant people. I met an interesting woman — I’ll call her “M” — who is also going through an ugly divorce that has been going on for two years now. (I sure hope mine doesn’t take that long.) M is the one who told me about Couch Surfing, which I linked to in one of my “Interesting Link” posts. So not only did I get to spend a nice evening out with new people, but I learned about some services I might want to take advantage of in the future.

I signed up with a bunch of groups for a bunch of activities ranging from wine tasting/pairing to hiking to archery lessons. My calendar is now quite full. And with new activities listed all the time, I don’t think I’ll have much trouble at all finding something interesting to do with others.

The Phoenix Atheists

I don’t usually blog about my religious non-beliefs because it results in a firestorm of comments by religious fundamentalists damning me to hell or worse. Of course, this means nothing to me because I don’t believe in hell. If you feel your anger rising now, take your blood pressure pills and move along. Comments blasting me (or others) for religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) won’t appear on this blog, so don’t waste your time posting them.

Yes, I’m an atheist. If you’ve been reading this blog regularly for a while and have somehow missed that point, shame on you. It’s not as if I hide it. If this is news to you and it upsets you, I’m sorry. I’d like to assure you that I have very strong moral convictions that don’t require an all-mighty being to supervise. I’m not a militant atheist — one who’s blasting believers all the time — I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person. If you want to believe in god, fine. Just don’t expect me to do it just because you and others do.

That said, I believe that atheists or “freethinkers” or “secular humanists” or “skeptics” — some of the names we apply to ourselves — are generally better educated, more intelligent, and better able to reason things out than the average person. I’m not saying all atheists are smarter than everyone else. I’m just saying that as a group, they tend, on average, to be brighter than the general population, better able to think before speaking, and better able to express their thoughts without offending others.

I’m not a dummy and I like talking to smart people. I like talking to people who are as smart as or smarter than me. People who can challenge me to think in a conversation. People who are able to discuss things deeper than what they saw on television last night, what’s in the news, or what they got in the latest Obama-bashing (or Romney-bashing) email in their in box. People who make me think about things that are interesting or important. People who can help me get a new angle on things, to possibly see things in a new way and build my own new conclusions. I like talking to people who can challenge me to think and to discuss things as an equal.

atheists.jpgI figured that a group of atheists should fit the bill. So when I found out that The Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group was going for a hike at Grapevine Canyon in Mayer, AZ, I decided to join them.

Because the trailhead required a 1-1/2 mile drive down a narrow, rough road, I took my Jeep and offered up rides to anyone who didn’t have a high-clearance vehicle. I got a call from another member — we’ll call him “D” — who was driving up from Yuma in his Toyota. We agreed to meet at the shopping area at I-17 and Carefree Highway, which was on my way north to Mayer. At 7:00 AM yesterday morning, I loaded up Penny, a fanny-pack full of frozen water bottles and snacks for both of us, my camera, and my monopod, and we headed out.

I got to the rendezvous point early. I topped off the Jeep’s gas tanks, then parked by McDonalds and started looking for others in the group. Another Jeep was supposed to meet there. What I discovered is that the McDonalds there is a popular meet up place for all kinds of groups of people. I’d stop at a small group and say, “Are you here for the hike?” (I didn’t want to mention atheists because some people get silly.) One of the people in the group would respond, “No, we’re going off-roading up by Crown King. You can come with us if you want.” Or, “No, we’re going scuba diving. Want to come with us?” Or, “No, we’re with the Miata Club.” (No invitation there.) I realized that even if I had nothing planned, I could go to the McDonalds, ask around, and go with the group that seemed to be doing the most fun thing. Whoa.

I finally found the other Jeep driver, “G,” and his companion. Then D. We chatted, loaded up, and headed north on I-17 to Mayer. I followed G’s Jeep.

I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with D during the 45-minute ride to Mayer. He’s a civil engineer who works with traffic control — light timing, traffic pattern design, etc. We talked about his work and mine and about each of our divorces. He was very supportive and offered some general advice from his own experiences. Although we didn’t talk much about that — I really didn’t want to — our chat helped clear my head and put me in a more positive mood for the hike ahead.

At the turnoff, there were more members of the group. I took on another passenger and followed a Toyota FJ Cruiser down a mildly rough road, with G’s Jeep taking up the rear. At the end of that little drive were more people and vehicles. I think our group wound up with a total of 14 hikers. A good sized group.

We parked and unloaded our gear. After a briefing from the group leader, we started off up the trail.

After driving down a rough forest road and parking, we did our hike in the area marked in red. We followed Grapevine Canyon most of the way.

We were on the eastern foothills to the Bradshaw Mountains. The Bradshaws aren’t very big — I think the tallest peaks might be around 6,000 feet — and the hills climbing up to them are mostly metamorphic rock and low bushes such as holly and manzanita. I kept Penny on her leash, mostly because there had been talk of mountain lions in the area and I didn’t want her wandering off. She walked with us like a little champ and only had to be lifted over one fallen log.

The trail started as a road, then narrowed to a wide trail. At a marked fork, we took the left fork, which was supposed to be level. It wasn’t. It climbed pretty steadily but not too steeply. Because we were hiking near a dry stream bed, there were some tall tress, including oaks and various pines. Scattered clouds and the trees helped keep the sun off us. Still, I’d dressed wrong in a pair of jeans instead of shorts. It wasn’t long before I was working up a good sweat.

Hand-carved Slingshot
We found this hand-carved slingshot hanging from the vertical poles of what may have been a hunting blind in a clearing along the trail. Magnificent workmanship! Of course, we left it where we found it; I hope other hikers do the same.

Members of the group split into smaller groups and chatted as they walked. Occasionally, the front groups would stop to let the stragglers catch up. It was very rewarding to me to be able to get into a conversation with any group I wound up walking beside. I was never excluded, other members seemed to go out of their way at times to engage me in conversation. It was exactly what I wanted from the experience: a good workout with good conversation.

Meanwhile, as the trail narrowed and climbed along the dry creek bed, it became tougher to follow. Soon, we were following cairns — piles of rock left to mark the trail. After a while, I was glad I’d worn long pants — others were getting their legs scratched walking through brush. Penny kept up very well, surprising me and others.

Eventually, we reached a dry waterfall with a seep-like spring. Thick green moss, which is rare in the desert, carpeted the rocks. Small flowers bloomed here and there. Butterflies flitted about. Facing an even narrower trail up the canyon, about half of us settled down to wait for the others to continue their explorations. Because various members had hand-held radios, we were able to keep in touch with all the groups. It wasn’t long before they’d had enough and began coming back.

Flower in the Sun
I captured this flower in a beam of bright sunlight.

The hike back was easier, probably because it was mostly downhill. Again, I found myself walking with different people along the way, talking about different things. It really helped keep my mind off my personal tragedy and the pain it was causing me. Being able to meet and talk to so many interesting people really pumped up my spirits.

Penny Resting on a Hike
We stopped for a long rest on the way back, mostly to gather the whole group together. I took this opportunity to give Penny some more water and let her rest.

Afterwards, we went to Leff-T’s Steakhouse in Dewey. The group insisted on us sitting on the outdoor patio so Penny could join us. I’m in the process of weaning myself off my diet — I’m very close to my final weight goal — so I ordered steak fajitas and ate about 1/3 of the portion, taking the rest home for the next two days. One of my companions kindly gave me a taste of his chicken fried steak — I love that stuff but will probably never be able to enjoy a full portion again. (Which really is a good thing, after all.)

We split up after that. D and I climbed back into the Jeep with Penny and headed back down toward Phoenix. Although it probably would have been closer for me to drive through Prescott, I admit that I looked forward to D’s company for part of the drive. We talked a lot more about what I was going through — he seemed genuinely interested and offered up all kinds of supportive words and advice. He also gave me some specifics about his post-divorce recovery process that I could apply to my own life and what I might face. It was extremely helpful to me.

After I dropped him off at McDonalds, Penny and I headed home. It was hot — seriously, I don’t understand how people could bear to live in Phoenix when the temperature is still hovering around 100°F on the first day of autumn. We made good time getting back and I was glad to pull the Jeep into the garage just as it was beginning to get dark outside. I gave Penny a much needed bath and took a hot shower to wash off the day’s sweat and dirt.

I was tired but I felt happy and hopeful for my future.

I’m really looking forward to my next outing with this group.

HappyThe hike leader, Al, posted a huge batch of photos that he shot before, during, and after the hike. Among them was this gem.

The ugly divorce I’m dealing with right now has been eating away at me day after day and night after night. But Al managed to capture the truth in this photo: my spirit is still alive and strong, I can still have fun, I can still be happy.

Thank you, Al. Seeing this photo really made my day.