My calves began to burn as the wind blew against me. I was trudging up a steep country road, and had been doing so for well over an hour. Keeping my head down and out of the wind, I hadn’t been paying much attention to my surroundings. Now, as the wind became less violent and the ground below began to level out, I looked up for the first time in quite a while. I was on top of a magnificent hill that was surrounded on all sides by fields of green grass. I unbuckled my pack and laid it off to the side of the road. I walked a few hundred feet into the field, where I found a large rock to sit on. I was alone. There was no houses. No livestock. No cars or people. Just myself, the narrow country road that stretched off into the distance, and the hill. The sun was setting on the horizon, painting the sky violent shades of red and orange. The wind was softly blowing, making the lush green grass sway and move together, shimmering in the sunlight.
I couldn’t comprehend the beauty I was seeing. This was all mine. I owned the grass, the rock. The sky was my own, and only my own. And with that came the irresistible desire to show others what I had just gained. I pulled my camera out of my pocket and set up what I was sure was going to be the most beautiful photo I had ever taken. I snapped the picture and looked at the camera’s display to review it. As I had thought, it was definitely a gorgeous photo. But looking up at the real thing, I frowned. The camera had not even come close to showing the vast fields that laid down below. Or the exact perspective of the distant rolling hills and forests. Or the height at which I sat. I looked back down at the camera, deleted the photo, and put it back into my pocket. I knew that no photo, or a written description, could ever come close to showing what I now saw. This beauty was here only in this moment. Soon it would pass, and I’d never be able to see it again.
And suddenly, with that thought, a large lump formed in my throat. Butterflies took off in my stomach and a feeling of sadness washed over me. It wasn’t that I was so far from home, or that I had walked so many miles, or that I had so many more to go. I had suddenly experienced an emotion that I had always believed I didn’t need to feel. I’ve lived the last few years believing that a person can gain so much from independence and solitude, and I still believe some of that to be the truth. But as I sat on a rock which had room for one more, overlooking the scene that stretched out in front of me, I finally felt the words sink into my heart.
“Happiness Is Only Real When Shared”