This is something I wrote when I was thinking about taking my trip. It was never published so I thought I would publish it here because I like it.
“We need the tonic of wildness…
At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things,
we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,
that land and sea be indefinitely wild,
unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.
We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I have a dream. It helps to keep me from getting too far down. My dream is to run away. Not to abandon but to be free. I want to go and explore. To see what is out there. To see what I am missing.
I don’t want to see the big city but the wonders of nature. A waterfall. A mountain. A cavern. A creek. Deep, dark woods. Trees taller than buildings, forests thicker than hairs on your head.
I want to see snow and beauty, stars and sunsets. I want to see a deer run free, a red squirrel, a chipmunk.
I want to smell the heavy scent of pine on the morning air, shiver in the coolness of a desert night. Watch as stars fade in the orange light of sunrise.
I don’t know why I find such fascination with the beauty of our world but I do.
I grew up in the big city. Surrounded by cement and cars and noise, noise everywhere I turn. I long to be, like Walden, away from it all. To find a place of my own in emptiness and quiet.
My dream home is not a castle or a mansion but a cottage in the woods. Like hermits of old I would spend my time in silence and contemplation, enjoying the bounties of nature.
I live in a world filled with the opposite of this and long for what I cannot have.
I guess in some ways we all want what we do not have. I am under no illusion that nature is kind and sweet. I know it is harsh and cruel and unlike my pampered existence.
And yet you don’t have to go fully one way or the other. There is balance in all things. I can have my tablet and my hike, my silence and the click of computer keys.
The idea is to separate them. To have time to unwind and unravel from the day to day existence and become peaceful again. That is what I am lacking. A center of peace.
I need this touch with nature to get back to myself. To what I want and need and how I can best cope with the demands put on me.
I know I must sound kind of flakey but I feel like I am drowning in the needs of others.
I feel like a man being pulled beneath the waves by sinister forces while everyone jeers that he must only swim harder. No one can see the invisible arms pulling me down beneath the waves, and my frantic, exhaustive and ineffective struggle is beneath their view as well.
I am drowning, a little at a time, in the pull of wants and needs and desires and hurts and cares and fears that surround me.
I try my best to float above it, to lose myself in work, to dig myself out, to help them, but like one drowning man helping another I simply make my end come that faster.
I can do nothing and that is what frightens me the most.
I have always been the effective one. The one to solve and help and fix.
But now I am helpless and hopeless, staring at their cacophony of complaints and needs and hurts with the wrenching sympathy of a doctor in the face of a plague with no cure. I can do nothing but try to ease their pain and wait to see if they will live or die.
It terrifies me to be so helpless and so I want to run, far, far away from it all.
Although, as a dear friend said, unless I leave it all behind me forever I know I will have to come back to face it all once again. It is I who need to change. It is I who need to cope and learn that being helpless means I have to let go, to stop trying, to give up.
But I am scared and so while I live in it I dream of running away. I have a complex plan in place. I have notes all written.
Sometimes I feel this is my attempt at suicide. At erasing myself from the world and its troubles if only for a short time.
I know that my life is not hard enough to contemplate doing anything permanent nor should I even think of such things and so I push those thoughts from my mind and focus on the beauty I will see, the peace and quiet, the relief from being responsible for anyone or anything but myself.
I know it is a fool’s errand. Something that hippies and hobos do to escape their troubles. Something that someone responsible like I am should never even dream of doing.
And yet I can’t seem to face the same office, the same job, the same people, the same family with the same problems without wanting to scream and run and find myself walking aimlessly out without money or hope or even a place or way to keep warm.
But I have too much fear and intelligence to do that and so I plan and calculate and hide, hide, hide everything until I know I am ready.
Until I feel secure in the fact that when I move nothing can hold me back and I can fly free.
I will drive.
I start out in my city, my big, big city, after work on a Friday. It is best to go that day so I do not miss work anymore than I have to and work, an hour or more away from home, is closer, just that much closer, to freedom.
I drive. I drive to nowhere. A little city with a little park I can stay in if I wish. The tent is already in the trunk. The bags practically packed. I can buy a cooler and food at the little gas station.
I have a secret fund. Some moneys squirreled away with desperate intensity. A dollar here and there that I have fought to keep against car trouble and illnesses and their constant need for more, more, more.
Then I will get there late at night and pull off on a small side street, dark and scary but not as scary as going home.
I will sleep in the back of my car, curled up on the tiny backseat hoping that no one passes by until I wake early in the morning as the sun rises.
I rise and get on my way again, traveling finally over the border. Maybe seeing the mesas I have heard so much about. I have lived here my whole life and have never gone this far.
I stop to see the caverns, dark and cool and intricate. I gape in awe at the gigantic pillars, the world beneath the world. Although it is not the nature I pictured it cannot be missed.
I explore, alone and without a guide in silence except the dripping.
Then I move on through the desert to a small town that everyone knows and no one goes to. I laugh and look at the little nowhere-ville that has captured my attention for so long.
I move on again, not daring to sleep in the streets here where cops and robbers vie for out of state cars, unsuspecting tourists. I drive out in the darkness of the desert and hide among the brush to once again face the night in the backseat.
I wake early and watch the sun rise over the barren landscape as I drive, drive, drive through nothingness.
And then I fall off the edge. Or to the edge. I have made it to my third destination.
The edge of the world. Where everything is sharp and defined in crags and splinters and red earth.
I am not alone here, but there is so, so much that I can walk and walk until I am alone. Until the soaring eagle and the roaring river are the only things I hear.
I sit at the edge, not on the edge, but right there, watching the river cut down ever deeper and wondering.
I shower there, at the edge of the world, sneaking into the showers in the light of day to avoid paying for a night.
I do not have much to go around and I need food and gas far more than a spot in the dirt to spread my tent. However I don’t like to stink and so I shower.
I go out into the desert again to sleep, managing to make it far enough from the edge to feel safe and alone. I get up and look forward to visiting the ocean.
Over the desert mountains and into the green and cities that line the lush coastline.
The temperature, the weather, the beauty is perfect and I watch in awe as the sea I have never seen comes rolling in. A whole new ocean, the biggest in the world, and this is my first taste of it.
It smells different. Like I imagined the sea must smell. So different from the tepid brown water of the gulf.
There is life here. Seals and birds and laughing crowds unbeaten by hurricanes and oil spills. The sand is white, the cliffs are dark and the sun is a warming ball instead of burning flames.
I move on again, reluctant to spend too much time in a city, any city.
I go up into the mountains, back the way I came but up too. I know it is foolish to go off course but I need to see it. I need to see the sea here, of all places.
I reach the mountains late, the darkness masking their beauty and making them faintly sinister. It is cold here at night and I shiver as I pay my way in. I will stay safe tonight.
I wake to birds in the morning. Getting out I explore this world of mountains and rivers and valleys. The waterfalls are mostly dried as the snow is ready to fall- not melting, but I don’t mind. It is still beautiful.
As the afternoon wanes I return on my journey, knowing my time is limited, and go see something man made for once.
It is on my way, of sorts, but I have a strange compunction to see it. The bridge that I have seen so many pictures of.
It is beautiful in its way and I drive over it with a thrill of accomplishment. I am now farther away from home than ever and I plan to get farther still.
I drive into the trees and sleep there, among the redwoods.
When I wake I drive more, watching the huge, huge trees rise up around me.
I get out and wander in the trees whose branches I could not touch from my office on the top floor. Instead of skyscrapers made by man I look up to be awed by the green and brown of living things so enormous it seems mythical.
I wonder if I am dreaming.
I move on from there to the lip of a volcano that cups a crystal lake. It is cold again and I brave it to see something I never dreamed of seeing. It is peaceful here and I stay awhile, longer than I should.
I move on reluctantly, leaving behind the ocean with a kind of wistful sigh.
There is more to my journey, and there is the return, but in my mind I go no further. I would like to stay there, in the giant trees. Protected and safe at the lip of something I cannot imagine.
It is like a dream world, and yet I know it all exists. I long to leave; to go and see it. To touch what I have only dreamed of. And, hopefully very soon, I will.
I can only hope it brings me the peace I long for.
“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
- Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)