Pause with Pema. You’ll get there faster, and there will be a better place.

Late as usual! With a six-hour drive still ahead of me (I’m going to visit my twin in Maine), I find myself standing in Rutland, Vermont’s post office line, itching to mail two of my novels to a Writer’s Digest contest and get on my way. There are two more people in front of me, so I try my best to summon my latest guru’s advice.

Pema Chödrön (པད་མ་ཆོས་སགྲོན padma chos sgron “lotus dharma lamp”. In 1981, Pema became the first American woman to become a fully ordained Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition.

“Pause,” Pema says in my mind. “Take three deep breaths and notice your surroundings. Break the story line — “I’m late! I’m late! My sister will be so mad at me!” — notice your surroundings, open your heart and mind and be where you are.”

And what do I see? The young woman in front of me clutching a giant box is wearing a very cool pair of hiking boots. “Yeah,” she tells me. “I’m a hiker, but not here (the Green Mountains). I did most of my hiking in the Adirondacks.” Like me, she’s a 46er, recently coined, number 12,000 plus. “It was crowded, peaks littered with people, reservations required and shuttle busses crammed to the max,” my new friend says.

The official badge

Times have changed since I finished in 1983, 46er Number 1944. Back then, all we had to do was open the can and pencil our names in the log book at the top of each peak. Small groups of friends would dig out their veteran hiking shoes and climb in one- to two-day trips, parking close to the trailheads, plotting our routes in between. Now it’s a circus!

Whiteface, highest of the 46, on a cold day

But it was no easy business, even back then. According to Patrick Kandianis it takes “295 miles, 70,000 feet, and a whole lot of grit” to finish. When he finished in 2017, six dogs had finished, “along with 10,137 bipeds since 1925. The majority of these routes are remote, rocky, and downright nasty.” It’s 295 miles, 70,000 feet of vertical climb, and 230 hours on the trail.

Ah, but I was 30 years younger then!

According to “the 46ers started in 1918 when brothers Robert and George Marshall, and their friend Herbert Clark, climbed Whiteface Mountain. This was their first high peak, and from there, the trio began their journey to climb all 46. What ended up as an eight year hiking adventure (1918-1925) for the three hikers would inspire many others in the future.”

The Adirondacks on a better day

Thank you, Ani Pema. I paused. Made a new friend, got to the post office window before I knew it, and relived three years that were pivotal in my life.

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