A Tale of a Brittle Gray Hair

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I’m filled with total contentment and maybe even a little bit of joy.

It’s my second morning on Hat Creek near Lassen Volcanic National Park. I’m reading Emerson, pressing too many cups of coffee, and chatting with local fishermen as they cast for trout.

I’m still glowing from the previous day’s hike at Butte Lake, one of my first since an ankle injury six months earlier.aeropress coffee at Hat Creek

Life is pretty damn good.

Then I notice something: A brittle gray hair on my Darth Vader sweat pants.

The last year has aged me.

One week into my fifth meander. I’m thinking back over a half-year, maybe more, of difficulties of my own making – and how I’ve finally gratefully pulled myself out of it.

Depressed. Fallible. Mortal.

Publishing one’s feelings on the interwebz brings interesting reactions. My post about my disorientation after Saguaro Man brought tons of likes (yay likes!) and positive comments from friends and from the Arizona Burner community.

It also brought an email of concern from my counselor: “I find myself wondering if you might be depressed.”

Hell yes I was depressed. And, depressingly, I don’t know where it began. I suppose it was gradual, but it’s been impossible to pinpoint the exact genesis of my difficulties.

When I was at my bottom in May, I was struck by this line from Robyn Davidson’s Tracks: “I did not understand the change, did not realize that I had become isolated, defensive, and humourless, did not know that I was lonely.”


The last year has aged me. After so many years of forward progress dating back to my eruption in 2009, I haven’t handled recent reminders of my fallibility and mortality with grace.

I fell off my game more than a year ago and never got back on it for more than a few weeks at a time.

I succumbed to anger over Trump. I succumbed to fear over my health, my financial security, my seemingly-imminent punishment from under-performing. And I succumbed to arrogance. It may not have seemed so outwardly (or maybe it did), but I could feel it growing inside me.

Then there were the reminders of my mortality. There was the gum surgery and the sprained ankle that refused to heal. There was the dad bod that refused to be tightened. There was the unstoppable creep of my Tinder search parameters past 40 to 41, 42, and on.

And, there’s the aforementioned brittle gray hair. Aged indeed.

Facing It. Always Facing It.

I’ve known things were off for a while – maybe as far back as last April (like, April 2016).Lassen Peak

In March, I sat on the bank of the Colorado River during a kayak trip and prayed for release. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready yet to do the work. I wanted GUSS to fix things, but I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

At times, I thought I had surrendered to the process. Instead, it took two more months before I was finally beaten into submission.

And sitting alone, utterly alone, in an apartment during a two-week solo trip to Boulder in May, I got that email from my counselor with this quote from Joseph Conrad: “Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it.”

When I returned home from Boulder, I finally began to put in the work. By the time I hit the the road a few weeks later, I was fully ready to face it.

And facing it has made all the difference.

A few hours after the encounter with the brittle gray hair, I’m hiking around Lassen’s Manzanita Lake when I experience my first instances of childlike wonder in more than a year.

The volcanic peak is still covered in snow and reflecting beautifully off the lake’s surface. But it’s the birds that do it – robins, Steller’s jays, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds.

These birds are the Sierras and Cascades to me, and the Sierras and Cascades are my church, my playground, and my sacred spot to face it all – depression, fallibility, mortality, and even a brittle gray hair.

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hiker at Lassen Peak


  1. Mike Weaver says

    I can’t wait for the meltdown when you find your first gray pube. 🙂 Don’t worry, you probably have a few years!

  2. Hilarious comments above! LOL. Pube humor aside, take it from your older (yet not necessarily wiser) friend here – this is not about aging or or gray hairs or immortality. The loss of ability to feel “childlike wonder” (or joy, bliss, connection, or whatever you want to call it) can happen at any age, and will happen throughout life. I just went through a six week slog of it myself (thankfully, only six weeks) this May and early June. The issue is not that we will go through this, the issue is knowing how to not get stuck there. In my case, I knew I needed some realigning (“spiritual chiropractic” I like to call it) but my newer daily healthy habits and behaviors I’ve been practicing for the last year or so weren’t enough to shift me – they were just maintaining my vibration rather than raising it.

    The desired shifting did happen and thankfully it didn’t take much, but I did have to be proactive about it – intentional. And the minute I was, the Universe delivered. I reconnected with nature (which never fails as you know), went to my actual physical chiropractor (outer shifts can create inner) AND tried something new – which you might like – all in rapid succession. I was invited to a Transformational Breathing workshop and found it incredibly powerful and healing. (Google local places near you that might offer it – it’s the fast lane to getting unstuck for most people).

    Glad you’re “putting in the work”. I always have to remind myself that God helps those who helps themselves. No one’s going to come along and push me into my power, I have to step into it on my own. So keep going forward with intention and enjoy your summer meandering!

    • Matt Meanders says

      I wish I had something more interesting to say than LIKE, but that was a pretty epic comment. So …

      LIKE 🙂

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