We cut through the mountains to get here, to Yosemite Valley. After four hours driving, we discovered Tioga Pass was closed for the winter, so we looped back and added another few winding hours in the rugged East Sierra switchbacks. When we finally showed up to Yosemite the next day, it was raining. Hard. We sat for a while in our tent, and when the rain let up slightly, we set out and found a place to read John Muir.
My partner and I are lying supine on the floor of Yosemite Valley—the wet grass tickling the backs of our ears—and she’s reading an excerpt from a book of John Muir’s collected works. As my thoughts twist about the churning grey clouds, she tells me of a young Muir, of how he stumbled upon a pile of sun-crippled fence board and used it to build a skiff. He then took this skiff some 250 miles down the tangle of an unknown river. While she’s reading, I let the rain mist down on my eyelids, and pretend it is the pray of a river. I think of how wild Muir was, how on fire he was to live. I imagine what form this valley took a hundred years ago, when Muir wandered about it. In my mind, there is no Camp 4, and no service road leading here. There is only the valley, untamed, unkempt, and unquestionably perfect.
There are two ways to tell this story. In the first version, we are cold, sniffling, and tired. We’ve had bad luck, and find ourselves stuck in dizzying, icy mountain roads. We arrive to Yosemite, as far as this story goes, generally beat.
In the second version, though, we are together. We are two best friends, reading and dreaming. We imagine a whole wild land that we experience in spite of it no longer existing. Most importantly, we share an afternoon. We’re happy. We hope the wet, pine-dusted earth might stain our t-shirts—that we might be able to take this moment—this literal earth—home with us. We are excited, too, for the sun. In this story, we know how great it will be when we next see it, feel it warm our faces. We are excited—no, we are thankful—we are thankful for the rain.
The rain brought us there. Without the lousy weather and the road closure, we wouldn’t have been reading on that dirt beside the giant Sequoias, my best friend’s hand in mine. In this version of the story, everything is pulsing, and thick with life. Everything is alive, and unassuming. Nothing asks to be seen, but it is seen.
The key is this: the second version of this story always exists. We only have to recognize it. We only have to say thank-you to everything unplanned and seemingly undesired in life, to the ‘misfortune’ that lands us where we need to be. If we pay attention, our bad luck is the harbinger of our joy. That's what living is. It’s not sunshine and a perfect hike through a picturesque valley. It's finding joy in the wake of our upended plans. It’s having a friend with whom we can revel in the magic of a storm-ruined day. It’s being thankful for the rain.