After hiking on the dry side of Molokai the California hills no longer seem quite so bleak or harsh. I haven’t been out in nature for a few weeks. I’ve been inside a house with my parents who both suffer with dementia and I headed to the hills with a soul full of woes. I walked for miles over hills of dry, rustling grass and solid, solitary oaks. The first steep incline burned because a few slack weeks are enough to turn lazy muscles into adolescent whiners, but eventually I caught my breath and began to feel frustration falling away. A deer bounced along the trail and a pack of wild turkeys scurried into the bushes.
There is nothing funny about dementia and it is surprisingly irritating to be around. The rambling stories devoid of truth, random fits of rage and the thousand yard glare in answer to simple questions serve to fry nerves. I’m only speaking for myself, from a very selfish point of view. I know it is another kind of hell to be in their shoes so I make every effort to practice kindness.
The difference between islands in the Pacific and just about everywhere else is snakes, so I remembered to keep my eyes on the trail ahead and not skip blindly through tall grass. The scents along the trail in California differ from the tropics like the gulf between savory and sweet, rosemary and bananas, the landscape smells more like dinner than desert. And the flowers are more demure, less inclined to blow up like party balloons. I volunteered to be here for my parents so I’ll make an effort to find places where few people go for a view that gives freeways and shopping centers fresh perspective. Vultures circling close overhead remind me to live life to the fullest, before all that remains is a house full of lost memories.