Sunny Days and Switchback Trails

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

I like sunny days. The way the sunlight illuminates everything, the feel of the heat as it ever so slightly cooks your skin, the way everything feels alive and awake all add to my delight on sunny days. It makes January feel like spring in California; it makes the flower shoots in my garden make sense. Sunny days feel good.

It is easy for me to be cheerful, optimistic and future-oriented on spring sunny days. Farm work is so much less muddy.

In a bit of small talk, the recipient of my comments on beautiful spring weather admitted she liked it, too, then added conscientiously, “I know we need the rain, though.”

“The rain makes these days possible!” I added joyfully.

There is some wisdom there.

During the same week, I discussed life setbacks with a friend. Holding up a square appetizer plate, angled to pretend it is a mountain, I described our experience on a switchback trail. The mountain was Lassen. My husband and I were youngsters in love camping with our best friends and climbing a mountain. We did not expect a monotonous set of switchbacks. The path was long and arduous, one hot step after another. Then, sunny days did not seem so glamorous.

Photo by Thomas Fields on Unsplash

Still, we were focused on the mountaintop. At one side of the mountain, where the switchback curved around, we looked down to see a verdant meadow with a narrow brook and sprinkles of wildflowers in the valley below. Every time we turned that corner, I cheered internally, “that’s the reward! That is where we’ll go when we’ve accomplished what we set out to do!”

This was a spiritual exercise for me. The mountaintop features heavily in many faith traditions as a place of wisdom, clarity, and closeness to God.

What I learned in the past couple years is that life follows a similar pattern. It can be trying, requiring all the endurance one can muster. We can complain and dwell on our tears. Or we can focus on the future, the goal, the reward.

“The rain makes these days possible.” On the path, we must journey somewhat where it is dry and difficult, but then again, the path will turn and we’ll face the meadow. We will feel the gentle spring sun. The path will turn, the vistas disappear, the cloud cover renew. This is life.

On one hand, we can simply endure the days we do not like, or we can find the good they hold in store so that it is not only the sunny days that matter. The days of promise are not the only times we feel hope. Rather they feed into the rest, not just in memory but the spirit of what we enjoyed so much can be translated to a new setting, applied in a new way.

At one time, it felt like the difficult times were all there was: “here we go again,” “when will it end?” were our slogans. As we curled up in the good times, the difficult times seemed far away, increasing the shock when they did return.

That is the lesson for me. The good times are good, but they will change, and that’s okay. The rough times are rough, but they will change, so let us not lose hope. Indeed, the rain makes it so we can appreciate the light of the springtime sun all the more. It clears the air, brightening the sky. Hard times force us to pause and evaluate priorities, sometimes dropping the things in life we put up with as a matter of convenience. After the work of hard times, the rest of the good times feels all the sweeter, and living it intentionally makes it more restorative than if we never struggled at all.

Even as we endure, be it in good times or in bad, let us keep in mind the mountaintop, our destination, our goals, the reasons we press on.


  1. says:

    These reflections are so beautiful; when it was published in the Hughson Chronicle did readers respond? I just can’t imagine something of this quality being published in the Modesto Bee….;)

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    1. Thank you so much. It is hard with print media to get feedback because it takes so much more effort to respond than online. I did get some wonderful feedback from one reader I know.

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