“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
Prisons exist to remind us that all of architecture, all of society in fact, is a prison. Look at this guy – bummed behind bars. It made me feel a little better after I read that all the animals in the Bear Mountain trailside zoo were rescued from poor domestic situations or were handicapped. The problem is they were almost all injured as the result of human actions, even if it was accidental.
Our species-specific arrogance dooms us to be dicks, at least to the non human inhabitants of this world, not to mention how we treat each other. Welcome to the human condition, bald eagle dude. What’s up with that?
Last weekend an elder gentleman asked of us “So… are you having the time of your lives? Are you having fun?” It’s a question we get asked a lot by day hikers and people in towns, and one we’ve been spending some time thinking about as we’re pushing higher and higher mileage days.
The thing is, this isn’t exactly fun. Nor is it meant to be.
Each day we hike for 10 hours, sometimes through difficult terrain and often over mountains; it’s exhausting and difficult. Our bodies are walking machines that demand intense attention to sustain their high output. While we have no specific deadlines or duties, if we’re going to complete this mission, our days are spent planning, managing our time and dealing with the minutia of keeping ourselves alive:
- searching for, treating and then consuming water of various color and providence;
- buying, preparing and eating 4,000-6,000 calories per day (each);
- stretching, rubbing and medicating our muscles while monitoring our bodies for signs of injury, fatigue or weakness;
- finding a safe, dry and bug-free place to sleep;
- sleeping or sometimes just tossing and turning, for 8 hours a day;
Are we are having the time of our lives? Honestly, that’s a difficult question to answer…
The difficulty and all-consuming nature of this journey has left us vulnerable and totally open vessels, through which all variety of emotions pass more loudly/clearly/quickly than ever before. Sure, we experience joy and magic and wonder and love. But also frustration, sadness, pettiness, guilt. Humility. Fear. Independence. Hope. Homesickness. Generosity. Forgiveness.
Tears turn to laughter. Defeat dissolves into tranquility. Loneliness unfolds to camaraderie. Any feeling can reverse itself at a moment’s notice – as if our emotional landscapes are traversed by summer storms.
We realize that this grand adventure is not all about fun – fun is sometimes a part of it, but like any life we live our experience is multifaceted and complex. This hike is a journey allowing us to experience each moment, each emotion as fully as possible; to choose for ourselves how we live , to examine our experience with undivided attention, to expose our bodies and minds to strain and rigor, to reward ourselves with beauty, to say yes.
So yes, old man. We’re having the time of our lives, and we hope your are to. If we have learned anything thus far, it’s that nothing is as simple as it seems, and every moment has within it the full potential to be the greatest moment of our lives.