Summer in the Sierra Trip #3: Persistence in the Range of Light

"Continuous effort--not strength or intelligence--is the key to unlocking our potential."  -Winston Churchill 

This week I returned to the same site as last time, and so it is becoming a home away from home. Over time, I’ve learned that staying put provides new opportunities for discovery that were never possible with a just brief visit. This is a profoundly new perspective for me--I used to think I had so much of the world to see that nothing but a huge backpacking loop or long through-hike would do. Today, I see the benefit of the out-and-back: it looks different from each direction, and changes every time I pass through. If it starts looking the same, then I must not paying close enough attention.

Nowhere has this been more true for me than in the Sierra. Here, I am constantly reminded of how suitable its alternate name, the "Range of Light" is. And I'm not just talking sunrise and sunset. Like Monet's haystacks, every part of the day, the light filters through the sky, mountains, trees, rocks, water differently. The Sierra Nevada range is never the same place twice. 

Such as it is with our work out here: recovery is a constantly evolving process, not always in a forward direction. Persistent effort is required. 

This applies to many things, not the least of which was my dissertation. My first year in grad school, I received some sage advice from a postdoc in my lab. She said, "Finishing isn't about intelligence, although that helps. It's about perseverance. If you don't give up, one day you will finish, and it will feel amazing."

Of course, she was right. And her words got me through some tough times. I have since developed a habit of persistence—some would call it grit—that moves me through challenges in a new way, helping me accomplish things I never thought possible. 

Back to the Sierra, this project is fortunate enough to have had folks with the same kind of perseverance to keep it moving forward despite setbacks. The goal of ecological restoration is at the core of what they do, and mine, now that I've had a taste of what is at stake and what can happen when it occurs.

So, each morning I get up and haul my sore muscles off to work—for another gorgeous, lucky day in the high Sierra.