In 2022 when hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, I carried two dog treats in a fanny pack around my waist.  This year’s hiking adventure in the Olympic National Park involved bear canisters.  Thinking it best I not wear the treats around my waist, I carried them in the bottom of my canister instead.  In the words of my sister when preparing to hike the PCT after mentioning someone suggested we sleep with our food under sleeping bags, of which I would be sleeping in a hammock.  That feels like lathering honey on yourself and saying, “here I am”.  Ha! 

I also carried two dog treats with me when I ran the Chicago Marathon last year.  The girls are such a part of my daily workouts, and my heart, I cannot not carry one of their most favorite items.  Some people carry good luck charms from their loved ones.  Me, I carry dog treats! 

After heading back towards the hotel for a much-anticipated shower after the race, my friend and I met another runner walking with his dog.  After exchanging dialogue about the race experience, I asked if I could share one of the girl’s treats with his best pawed friend.  I was able to offer this runner laughter, too, when he realized I had just run 26.2 miles carrying dog treats!

I didn’t offer dog treats to any bears while traversing the Olympic National Park, though my hiking mates and I did experience five bear encounters during our adventure.    Each of the bears were gathering.   Berries.   For their upcoming hibernations.  

And of course, me being me, I was also listening to the bears’ messages.   Gather to share. 

I’ve thought a lot about their messages since they graced my path nearly three months ago. 

When I share something I’ve gathered with another from what I’ve read or heard.  When the inner whisper communicates, they may find the words helpful or inspirational.    

When I put ingredients on my grocery list with a plan to bake something homemade for a friend or for family.   Gathering.   To share.    Not just what I intend to be a tasty treat or meal.   Gathering to share from the heart in the way my grandma communicated love through the food she baked for others. 

When I share from a chapter of my story that once held emotional pain or grief along with how I’ve stepped through a healing journey.  Brene Brown’s wisdom regarding vulnerability holds incredible truth.  Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. 

Gather.   Like the bears were.  Fully present with the berry bushes, guiding us with their presence to be fully present, too, as we paused, watched, and waited for them to saunter off into the distance so that we could continue on the trail.  For stories we could share of being in their presence, bearing witness in their natural habitat in which we were guests honoring their space and them for who they are.  

Gather, in the words of one dear soul who said the following recently, as students of listening.    Gather space to listen with such things as empathy, compassion, gratitude, kindness, non-judgement, respect, humility, and curiosity.  

The Heart Math institute has conducted research that says we can feel another’s heart up to fifteen feet away.   Gather [in our hearts] to share from our listening such things as empathy, compassion, gratitude, kindness, non-judgement, respect, humility, and curiosity. 

I think of the bears when I find myself ruminating on a situation in which I am starting to pick up the oars to paddle upstream, metaphorically speaking.   In the moment I am about to put the oars into the water to paddle against the currents of trust and faith’s downstream flows, one of nature’s animals will cross my path speaking.  Flow with life, follow the rhythm of your own heartbeat, gentle grace, playfulness is important, follow your true north to name a few of the messages shared for my gathering.  

Gather to share the experiences in which the Universe is messaging hope, faith, and love are always within reach.   Like the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh, the present moment is the only place where life exists.

Lately I’ve been focused on words I read long ago to this effect.   It’s not how often we meet each other; it is how often we reach each other.   How often we don’t simply spend time together, but fully see and hear the other person we are interacting with. 

How often we can feel that a meaningful connection has occurred.  That we have just shared ourselves in a way that the other person will gladly gather what we have offered, and want to hold onto it, to treasure it, to keep it in safekeep. 

The life story writer in me holds tight to the bear wisdom as I think about the power of narratives, of gathering to share stories for inspiration, for wisdom, for legacy.    

I think about the berries the bears gathered.   We sampled from bushes on our hike.   Some were sweet.  Others not so much.  

The berries a life-force for the bears.   Words for humans a life-giving power and how they are gathered and shared greatly influences, transforms, alters, shifts, revolutionizes, evolutionizes, carries forward, leads upward, and cracks open.   

And how words are gathered and shared can greatly influence, transform, alter, shift, revolutionize, evolutionize, carry backwards, lead downward, and crack apart. 

I think of the bears gathering for their hibernation, for sharing within their own internal systems as they lay in the dark caves through winter’s dormancy.   What words do I gather in my internal systems to fuel me when winter seasons arrive on life’s journey?  What am I sharing to my mind, heart, and body in my gathering? 

Dear bears, thank you, and may you have a most restful sleep.  Rest assured, your messages of gather and share were fully received.   

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