Thursday, December 10, 2009
A Hike Up Cowles Mountain - by Patty Mooney
Last Friday I gave myself the opportunity to climb all the way to the top of Cowles Mountain, the most-climbed mountain (at 1,592 feet high) in the city of San Diego. It had been more than a couple of years since I made that trek; a Total Knee Replacement last September, and the lead-up of agony for months prior to that, while simply attempting a walk around the block, were obstacles thrown into my path.
We live near Cowles, pronounced "Coals" and named after a rancher named George Cowles who settled in San Diego in 1877. We can see the mountain from our backyard. On the weekends, hundreds of people climb, as though on a mission to Mecca.
I set out at around noon and encountered maybe 50 people going up and coming down. Some had their dogs with them, some were shirtless, running up, some were with friends, and I noticed that many of them were plugged in to their iPods. I tried to make it a point to say "Hello" and smile to everyone, but the "Pod People" were definitely in a world all their own; they were absent from "Here and Now." While their bodies were present on Cowles Mountain, their minds were connected elsewhere.
I wondered about it. We have a couple of mountain-bike buddies with whom we don't ride anymore because they insisted on wearing their iPods on every ride and it was simply anti-social behavior. You would try to say something to them and they couldn't hear (or respond) because they were listening to their tunes. Also, what if there were hikers or equestrians around the bend? The inability to hear pertinent sounds on a trail frequented by others seems like a recipe for disaster.
Coming across so many hikers with pods in their ears was disconcerting. The Pod People were coming off as rather snooty and oblivious. Just as I was starting to think I might not ever want to come back to Cowles again I met two twenty-something girls (not together). One took my picture and the other posed for a photograph. I had very nice conversations with them both. Two clear-headed, awake and beautiful young women who had not succumbed to the lure of iPods." There was still some hope for the world!
I can understand that people like working out with motivational music. I LOVE music, too. But what about the natural music of nature? If you're out there on a mountain trail, to me it seems disrespectful to nature and to the others that you encounter along the trail, to close yourself off (literally, with a couple of ear buds) from the Here and Now. Maybe it's time for a new Book of Etiquette for the 21st Century, to address issues like this one. For instance, it's wrong to eat with your elbows on the table; but what about eating in a restaurant with a cell phone to your ear? Or texting in a car while driving? That's seriously dangerous - to yourself and all the other drivers around you.
Just after 9/11 occurred here in the USA, do you remember how attuned everyone was to each other? We had ALL suffered a tragedy together, and it brought us all together. Little by little, we all went back to what we were doing before the Trade Center buildings went down, and now many Americans are so isolated from their community, they can't even enjoy a moment outside in the sunshine, on a dusty little trail, awake and aware of the scents of sage and lavender, the scurrying blue-belly lizards, the cool feel of the big rock boulders. I believe that if you're fortunate enough to find yourself in Nature, then you should BE in Nature. When you're wired for sound, well, then you're somewhere else and you have just squandered a golden opportunity. And if you are one of the millions of people who want to meet the love of your life, you may have just blown right past them without even knowing it.