Today I walked the trails again, as I do most mornings. It was a beautiful day, with a calm stillness infusing every rock, shrub, breathe of air, and happily hopping cricket. The sky was a pure, cloudless blue, so vibrant that one glance could quickly remove any over-trodden trail of aimless thoughts.
I decided to combine two of my favorite hikes, with two viewpoints and two loops. Someone else must have had the same idea, because I encountered Mr. Orange three separate times on my walk today. I had seen this mountain biker before: an older, lighter-skinned version of myself with a grayer yet similar goatee. Every time I see him, I wonder how his brightly colored shirt (you can guess the color) always remains so crisp and sweat-free compared to mine.
The first time Mr. Orange rode towards me I stepped aside to give him room and he flashed a warm smile and bright eyes and yelled out “Hi-hi and thanks!”. The second time, I heard gravel crunching behind me and turned to see him huffing and puffing, standing on his pedals to win the hill. He smiled a bit and nodded this time. A bit more quiet, a bit more cold, but still friendly.
The third time, I could see him riding down a faraway grade, and noticed he saw me. Even from that distance I could see his energy contract slightly. Perhaps, like me, he was enjoying the solitude, the beautiful day, and sometimes having to acknowledge Other interrupts that enjoyment. When he passed, he just looked straight ahead.
Alone again on the trail, I wondered who the real Mr. Orange was. Was he one of the three versions I saw today? Or was he something deeper? What was his core, the truer form of his energy? I think that, like everyone, his natural state is closer to the initial warmth and openness he displayed. Every encounter subsequent was just our artificial layers — awkwardness of repeatedly acknowledging the same stranger — covering up the purity beneath.
His changes felt like a gate slowly closing off a trail leading to the most beautiful, full and undisturbed mountain. If I focused on the gate, my energy would probably also contract, my gate would close, and all that would be left would be two closed gates exchanging forced pleasantries on the trail. But if I looked to the mountain at his core, at my core, at the core of all Life, I could see that the gate was absolutely nothing. Whether it was closed or open, it did not matter. One could see through it anytime one chose to. One could focus on the mountain.
We re-create ourselves moment to moment and rarely are aware of it. I saw three different Mr. Oranges today. They were in the same physical form, on the same bike, and perhaps they were pulled from a familiar superset of thoughts and habits, but each time I saw him, I saw a different Mr. Orange. Little do we know, that at any time we can choose to stop reforming ourselves, stop pulling our thoughts and identity up from the depths. When we stop, all that is left is the Mountain.