When a Goal is Not the Goal

I love exploring the path before me with my feet.  With each step, my feet may, at times, bring me closer to a goal, when having a goal is the goal.  Yet there are those times when I simply wander, allowing my feet to carry me to new places, or spaces in which I may not have traveled for some time.  Old places are made new with the changing seasons, when some of my New England trails are completely transformed, as a spring intermission leaves behind the cold sleep of winter, giving way to summer greenery.  The trees awake from their slumber, and deciduous trees grow new leaves symbolizing rebirth. The canopy soon fills in, as treetops coalesce above, and ground cover of ferns and small shrubs coalesce over the ground below.

It is during these times when, a goal is not the goal, that I notice these changes most.

Without distance targets or specified time intentions, I travel along my new England trails, watching the leaves fall as Fall summons winter, and smelling the wet mud filled with leaping frogs after a summer rain. Garter snakes sun themselves when the air feels just right, and I share their enjoyment of the warmth that comes with summer light.

I wander for the sake of wandering. I am a traveler in this space, with grateful legs carrying me to beautiful places and hidden worlds within my world. I am greeted by waterfalls and take the time to indulge my body in the cooling waters. I encounter butterflies fluttering carefreely in the morning light.  Tall grasses sway in the breeze, and I imagine all the little ticks lying in wait…I choose to go elsewhere.  Robins soar above me with their morning catch and leave me wondering where their adventures are taking them on this day. Adirondack summits show me beautiful mountain views, as I can see for miles around me. Wooded trails show me peace and calm, as only the sound of my footsteps greeting the trails surrounds me.

And the wildflowers! They bloom without mercy, never fearing to show the world their true colors, never hiding their worth, only seeking to share their glory.

It is during the weeks when, a target is not the target, that I see the world around me most.

The miles pass quickly as I am filled with a sense of excitement, traveling to new places where I have not yet been. I lose my sense of time, as daily stresses melt away and I am left with only this one body and these natural spaces surrounding me. I run the downhills because so doing brings me joy and I power hike the steep uphills when my legs tire, simply because it is okay. “We are not training today.”

As a desert wanderer in my previous life, my feet carried me along trails of dust and intention, as only the hardiest in the desert can survive. This world of scarce water and formidable heat shows little mercy to the unprepared, so even the lightest of wanderings were planned for with care. But this meticulous attention to detail was awarded with some of the most beautiful views, as the scent of desert creosote filled the air after a summer rain and scrub jays called to me from a safe distance. Tiny side-blotched lizards scurried across the path ahead of me, hoping perhaps that I would not notice. Carpenter bees busily pollinated desert blooms.  Rattlesnakes lay quietly under a brush, yet offering a warning if I accidentally came too close. I always appreciated that.

The path ahead was filled with stones and thorny plants, but this was home to me.  Strenuous climbing rewarded me with summit views for miles and reminded me of my resilience. Descending steep rock-mantled slopes called for cautious and deliberate footsteps, as any misstep could mean a tumble.  I once managed to fall backward and sit into a cactus.  “I can do hard things.”  Minutes turned into hours as the miles passed by.  Here, too, I lost all sense of time, as the hours became measured by desert landmarks passed and proximity to the mountains I explored.

It is during the months when, an objective is not the objective, that I observe the world around me most.

Feeling the raindrops land on my face, I enjoy the sensation of droplets kissing my nose, as a light breeze envelopes me.  Here, in the elements, I feel most alive.  The light breeze gradually gives way to a strong headwind, offering more resistance to me as I climb an already steep hill back to my house. I am not deterred. When we are challenged, we adapt. I am wandering today with no target, so I adjust my run to a power hike because it is okay. In the process, my legs recover, and I can resume running again, in spite of the headwind. Small gullies around me begin to fill with water, as the steep hillsides where I live seek to drain themselves of this new, excess water. I watch the flowing waters wind and twist along their paths, as they gradually make their way downhill and into the creek, eventually flowing into the Susquehanna River. At this moment, as I am soaked in rain, I feel even more connected to this place. I belong here and I am no different than the winding waters, scurrying lizards, fearless wildflowers, or the introverted fox I recently encountered. I move my body forward, with no agenda or plan, just as they do, and simply exist in this space.  And rather than retreat from the rains, I seek them.

It is during the moments when, there is no plan, that I am most reminded of my connection to the world around me.

Kuwanna Dyer-Pietras

Kuwanna Dyer-Pietras

Kuwanna is a life-long runner and a field geologist with a love of running adventures and field work. She has completed several marathons and is now exploring ultra distances. She is originally from Nevada and would love to see more BIPOC women running the trails. When she is not running, you will find her teaching geology courses, researching ancient river and lake deposits, all while trying to keep up with two daughters and a patient husband. She is a connoisseur of gluten-free beer and granola.

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