Shutting out the noise

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz
As an occasionally obsessive hiker navigating the meandering trail of my existence, I'm constantly rediscovering it's a metaphor for everything — from life in general to long-term care. 

Preparation, perseverance, taking one patient step at a time — it all applies, to absolutely anything we do. If I didn't want my brain to hurt, I'm sure I could  figure out how hiking is even a metaphor for hiking. 

Lucky for me, I live just downstream from the Columbia River Gorge, a scenic wonderland of waterfalls, wildflowers and endless hiking trails in Oregon. More than 4 million people annually trudge lemming-like to Multnomah Falls, carrying 3.95 million selfie sticks. It's a magical place. 

Unfortunately, getting there is all-too-easy via a primitive horse path called Interstate 84, which runs so close to the cascading water you can pretty much feel the mist on your face from the car window.

So until the annoying crowds and freeway cacophony finally recede far up the trail, it's always a challenge for me to shut it all out and keep remembering why I came. 

In the sadness, anger and noise of the past few bloodstained and racially charged weeks in America, as I write this, that metaphor has been much on my mind. I've written plenty of times about not letting the many day-to-day challenges within our profession obscure the meaning and purpose in our work. But as the very fabric of society starts to fray and the threats multiply and become vividly exterior, maintaining focus and perspective is exponentially more difficult — and important. 

In his poem “The Truly Great,” English poet Stephen Spender offers an eloquent admonition for times like these: “Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother with noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.” 

Somehow, no matter what happens in the world around us, our sacred responsibility is to resist giving in to anger and fear — to just keep hiking, higher and higher, to the place where the spirit  flowers on the faces of the people we serve. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.