Written by Ditch
As I near the end of this expedition, I’ve started to look back and reflect on past events – both the joyous and that which has proven most difficult. Typically what are thought of as the most trying moments during an expedition are when the external physical factors prove to be too challenging or overwhelming. We have our boundaries and they, willingly or not, get crossed by a rainstorm, a spilled pot of food, an incessant injury. Dehydration, exhaustion, and hunger round our rough edges, give us fortitude, put hot sauce in our spaghetti. The aim is to pass through the eye of these experiences and come out on the other side, more aware of limits, more humbled and awed by the power of the natural world. These experiences are thought of as building blocks to accomplishing harder challenges. These experiences, as Calvin’s dad from the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes so often declares “build character.”
But what I’ve found on this journey is the moments that leave me guileless and desperate, are the moments when it seems the world – as well as every biotic and abiotic constituent contained within – has been blindly robbed of its sense of animacy.
Maybe you know the feeling? Clouds only seem to be the ragged and lost pieces of a puzzle you don’t remember starting. Dandelions loll at the top of their stalks. Either the sun blares too loudly and bleaches all the color from the landscape or a veil of gray hangs over a listless wind.
Seemingly in an instant the sense of aliveness that was once so abundant in the roadside plants, the amethyst strewn cliff, that was so apparent in me and Crane and Specs is, quite simply, gone. I’m only left with the faint recollection of why I wanted to run around the lake in the first place. I’m left with a vague notion of what it means to be a human, friend, brother. I tap my fingers on the glass of mystery and nothing resounds. The present I despairingly asks the past I Why?
Most disturbingly, perhaps, is when these moments strike when I have gone to the lake for solace of any kind. I amble down to the shore, expectant, hands folded, ready to hear or see something. But alas, I arrive and it is only a crash of noise and hue, a meaningless swath of water and sky. Dumbfounded, shell-shocked, I turn back. All I can do in these moments is reinstitute my faith that these seconds will pass. All I can do is reassert the hope that the chittering of a black-capped chickadee will be paired back up with it’s devoted singer, that the scent of Mayberry floats from an actual living plant.
Moreover, during these moments when the world has been turned around and I have been shunted to the role of unwanted guest, I have to ask myself, does the calculus of all living things require a human eye in its equation? Is it that something is broadcasting a signal that I’m temporarily unable to receive? Or is the whole project of trying to make sense of the movement and sound around me doomed to fail from the start?
Regardless, as unsettled as I become by these trying moments, like a cloud passing, they scoot out of my sight and out of my life. I will be running and unexpectedly it feels like I have crossed through the threshold of some unknown door. The room I have come into is full of light and meaning. Nothing stands isolated. All is exalted. I’m back. Seemingly the world is not alive but then, by the careless twist of some unseen jester’s hand, it is unabashedly, frighteningly, irrevocably, heartbreakingly back in shocking force, full of color and sound.