Explosion on the Mountain

It was a gorgeous day for a hike--sunny, blue skies, comfortable temperature-perfect hiking weather. F suggested we hike up to the summit of the 12,000’ peak, taking our time, enjoying the profusion of wildflowers that had suddenly emerged after the night’s rain. She was used to hiking at lower altitudes, so we stopped whenever she needed to catch her breath or eat a snack. We climbed in companionable silence, finding the meandering path up to the top with no trouble.

Almost as soon as we started eating, it began to rain. We put on our rain gear, packed up our food, and started hiking down the mountain. The temperature dropped. Balls of hail mixed with the rain. Rivulets of water poured down what we thought was the trail.

Suddenly she screamed at me. “I’m not doing this anymore. Why do you always have to hike? Why can’t we ride bikes? This is dangerous!”

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What Happened in the Wilderness

by Nancy King

On a cool sunny dawn, after getting up at 4 a.m., my friend and I began our hike into the Grand Canyon after agreeing that we would each walk at our own pace and meet at the rest stops. She took off and I followed behind, starting down the 14-mile hike on the Kaibab Trail, munching a protein bar and drinking the electrolyte-water in the bladder of my backpack for breakfast. As the golden rays of the sun highlighted huge stone canyon structures, I felt blessed by the beauty surrounding me.

Before we began the hike I was concerned about hiking back up the steep Bright Angel Trail, but it never occurred to me that going down could be a problem. I was totally unprepared for the widely spaced wooden steps and heavily eroded trail in front of me. Down two feet to a log step, then up two feet to the next log step. Down, up, down up, all the time moving down a steep incline. Still, I was contentedly making my way when suddenly I lost 75% of my energy and could barely control where and how I stepped. I began falling backwards as I tried to take a step. My body refused to move normally. I had no idea what was happening to me.

What I did know was that I couldn’t afford to panic and waste my waning energy.

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The Trip I Didn’t Take

by Nancy King

Over the years I have traveled both here and abroad to teach, hike, visit friends, explore native crafts, attend conferences, and wander, with no destination or agenda. I have been kidnapped in Spain, abandoned in Japan, lost in Thailand, confronted by fleeing refugees in Hungary, frozen in Denmark, and awed by the kindness and caring of people with whom I had no common language. In my travels I have dealt with strikes, thunderstorms, ice, and tornados. Yet the trip I didn’t take, which involved no outer danger, no worries about the elements or travel arrangements or passports, turned out to be the most difficult trip of all—an inner voyage, to a place inside myself, a journey I had avoided for most of my life. 

It began with an invitation, to make a trip to see his newborn daughter. The parents told me I needed to have a pertussis shot, something both my Eastern and Western medical personnel advised against, given that I have a chronic form of leukemia and am not in remission. He told me that if I couldn’t have the shot, I would need to wear a mask and gloves if I wanted to hold the baby. In emails and in phone conversations I agreed to do this, as well as anything else needed to protect the child’s health.

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Dancing With Martha Graham

by Nancy King


Martha Graham 1948 via Wikipedia Commons LicenseThe Martha Graham School of Dance was in an old mansion on East 63rd street between 2nd and 3rd avenues in New York City. Walking into the building was like entering the temple of a high priestess whose devotees all looked alike—the men, gorgeous, tall, well built, strutting around in tights so revealing I blushed each time I tried not to look. The women, tall, thin, yet muscular, their long dark hair pulled into buns or twists, not a hair daring to disturb the sleek coiffures. 

Although the bus ride to the school was long, the distance I traveled meant leaving a world I sort of knew how to manage for one filled with unexpected challenges, where I could be unceremoniously discarded, not fit for living, dumped onto a pile of rejects. When I found the courage to speak, it felt like a shout but was probably barely a whisper. “I’m here to register for the Beginning Graham Technique Class,” I said to the young woman, whose jet black hair was pulled into a painfully tight chignon, her cheekbones jutting out from her sculptured face, her dark eyes rimmed with black, the red of her lipstick looking like a bloody wound. She was too busy flexing her arches to pay attention to me, but I wasn’t about to let anyone keep me from the class. “I’m here to register for Beginning Graham.”

“Name, please.” I told her. She deigned to look it up on a clipboard on her desk. “Right. Advanced class—meets at 5:30. Be here no later than 5:15, dressed, warmed up, ready to begin promptly. Martha doesn’t tolerate latecomers. 

“Martha? Me? Advanced class? There’s been a mistake!

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