Last night I arrived just below treeline on Greenhorn Mountain just as the swiftly moving mists overtook me, turning the blue gloaming into a dark downpour. I made my way as swiftly as I could into the dark of the forest and began to pitch my tent. I was feeling that it was not going to go well, that pitching my tent in the rain was going to be a miserable situation. I feared that I and the inside of my tent and my sleeping bag would get wet before I could get the protective rain fly up. I had brief notions of a cold, wet, sleepless night atop a mountain.
I knew that the rain was going to pass through the mesh netting of its roof and so I would need to work swiftly and with single focus. I spread the tent out and covered it with the rain fly while I ran the poles through their sleeve tubes. This is not easy and the tent was getting wet, the material resisting against the progress of the poles a bit due to the new friction of it's wet weight and the weight of the wet rain fly on it.
The breeze moving this misty cloud through the forest was cold and my clothes were getting soaked. I had decided to forgo spending time on getting my rain gear out in lieu of getting my shelter up as quickly as possible. I could always change into dry clothes once inside.
Once the tent was up and I was inside changing out of my wet clothes, I realized that the intensity of setting up the tent in this swift manner had lent the moment a focus and a calm to the situation. I had not been worrying about the rain or the cold or how wet my clothes or the tents insides were getting, I had been completely focused on the mechanics of the process. I found that with this single pointed focus I had achieved a meditative state where all of these factors were known or acknowledged, but without all the complicated and fearful thoughts. In fact I felt a bit elated. The challenge of the rain had made the event almost a game for me. I laughed in the dark at the thought that I had been having a rather joyful time through the whole "ordeal."
Hours later, I heard the rain stop hitting the rain fly. I unzipped my tent door and scooted out into the vestibule of the rain fly and unzipped its door. The thick mist of that mountaintop cloud was still moving ghostlike through the forest. I got out to experience it. The air was fragrant with the smell of a rain drenched forest. The evergreen scent, the earthy smell of the ancient humus beneath my feet. I could smell mushrooms out there growing in the moisture of the dark.
The mist began to thin as the cloud was sweeping over the mountain now. It dragged the tail-end of it's ragged tendrils through the narrow alpine firs and as that floating wet blanket slipped across the treeless summit, the dark expanse of the night sky was revealed. At this elevation above any artificial lights of the towns below, the amount of stars one can see is stunning. I realized that the cloud moving across the sky had been like a theater curtain, as it swept over the mountain the revelation of the night sky had a very dramatic effect. It would have been a completely different experience had the sky remained clear at sunset and the dark slowly gathered and one by one the stars slowly became visible. I realized that my experience of all that cold rain and mist was essential to the joyous experience I was having in the present moment. For a moment, here was no real distinction between the discomfort of pitching my tent in the rain and the pleasure of looking out into the glorious stars of our galaxy. There was only joy and gratitude. All that had happened was the path to this deep felt and timeless moment of bliss.
I hadn't been dwelling on how I wished the situation had been different, I was too engaged, too focused for thoughts like that. Accepting life as it is, tensions disappear, discontent disappears; being able to accept life as it is, one starts feeling very joyful for no reason at all!
When I saw the night sky fully opened cup with those innumerable stars in the nearly liquid black of space and the misty cloud dissapearing over the treeless sumit of the mountain, I was overcome with it's beauty. I felt grateful.
With great gratitude I was thankful for the cloud and the rain and the mist. I was grateful that I was spending a night with no other lodging than a tent; otherwise I would be sleeping under an ordinary roof and I would have missed this blessing--these stars, and the whispering retreat of this misty cloud, and this silence of the mountain, the utter beauty of this mountaintop night.
It was a great lesson, a lesson in the value of a focused meditational state in challenging times. A lesson in remaining calm in adverse conditions. This direct experience of nature had powerfully demonstrated to me a lesson in accepting all that life brings, with gratitude.