i wake up in a tent. this is near the end of this journey; a journey that existed in canyons, rivers, oceans, mountains, deserts; in solitude and with friends and family.
were there any defining moments? many. but what I found, and what I sought to find without realizing it, has been a slow and steady feeling, seeping up through the pores of the earth, like small streams of snowmelt suddenly emerging from the earth, clear trickling water running fast and proud, messengers of change.
the question I keep on repeating is: “what’s at stake?” The answer that continues to emerge is: “a life”. And after these questions are “how”, or “what does it taste like”. which turns do you take? How do you navigate? how do you decide how to move?
In this trip I have left up most of it to neither intellect nor emotion, but something like a spirit, or a soul. what direction calls me? when I look at a point on the map, and some part of me whispers, “what if we went there?”, I get interested. When another part of me sighs and starts coming up with logical reasons why we shouldn’t go there, it’s usually a sign that the soul or the intellect, maybe sometimes the ego and the psyche are in conflict. on this trip, I have let the psyche drive. and it has been pretty magical.
the emotions have been helpful in understanding my capacity. what am I okay with? how do I feel about this? what I realize is that the emotions cannot tell me where to go, but how I am resourced to go, channeling the wisdom of the self into a felt sense that warns or empowers me onwards.
the intellect has been helpful in understanding strategy. what should I be prepared with? Which route should I take? The intellect, too, can’t tell me where to go, but can advise me on what I need, what gear I might take, road conditions, weather conditions. Listening to the intellect too much makes me spin in fascinating circles around possibility and limitation, opportunity and scarcity. “We could”, it says endlessly. Listening to the intellect too little makes me rush a little foolhardly into situations. But by and by.. it’s time to take the intellect’s megaphone away and replace it with a small lapel mic.
Listening to the emotions too little makes me overextend myself. I become a distended balloon, temporarily inflated, and will later make wheezing or wailing sounds when I deflate, the emotions I haven’t felt into manifesting all over, time-delayed by hours, days, even weeks and months. One relationship I started mourning a year later. So it goes. And listening to the emotions too much; well, there’s a distinction between listening and following. It’s important to listen fully, to notice fully the emotions that are present; that way, they are accounted for, available, understood, recognized, loved. But to follow them too much is to be swept up by the logic of the storm; the storm is when hot air current meets cold air current, and suddenly emerges, torrent and gale, so very present, and will also die out and dissipate into nothing, later. The emotion will pass, if given due recognition, but to follow it closely is to live a life like a torrent; unpredictable, chaotic, dangerous, but of course, vivid, beautiful, special. This too is part of nature, and so is change, injury, loss, death, grief. And in so far as we are part of nature, it’s also in our nature to resist, or to avoid, and to find safety as much as possible. To follow an emotion is to become a force of nature; beautiful and unsafe. Ultimately, the nature swallows you up. You are in the throes of the storm. To become powerful nature is a terrible curse. To be human is to live a humble, beautiful life. And fortunately, humans have been living with storms, both real and emotional, for millennia. There are ways to live that we can learn if we learn from each other; follow some paths that others have gone.
And listening to the spirit? The soul? Well; to listen is to be alive.
On this journey I have met with experiences. In the stillness of nature, in the stillness of wilderness, I encounter the earth, and myself. I cry for the earth, and it allows me to cry for the earth inside of me. I ask it; “how could you live?” and it responds with love, and a compassion that confounds me at first, so utterly generous; “they, too, wanted to live; they were traumatized; having been conquered, having lived life in a way where they conquered each other, and even themselves, they knew only conquest; did not know how to share, how to coexist. what can you do, children?” A grandparent grieving over two fighting grandchildren. I see for a moment, the vastness of earth, the wisdom of time; this thing I am part of, that I live inside of, that I will die inside of.
I want to die well. This is a life of dying, of gradually growing old, of changing and transforming in the process, and eventually a death. I’m going to die, one day, hopefully at a ripe old age. If you walked into a casino with play money, wouldn’t we have more perspective? With suffering, but more joy, more perspective, knowing that the vissicitudes of life bring us all towards the same ocean, whichever forking stream we take? Or is this the simplistic musings of someone currently without spouse or kids, whose parents and sibling are alive and well, still? I think the truths here are clear; I foresee them transforming when I again begin to love someone equally more than I love myself, when my heart exists in others, when I’d trade my death for another’s life, when my love would try to knowingly deny the world’s truth, futile and inevitable yearning towards timelessness. right now I am present, and grateful.
Before I lose this thread, this feeling: I am in a tent in point reyes, California, august 21, 2023, listening to the sound of the waves in the distance. In a moment I might walk out to dip my feet, do a meditation, pack up, and return to meet a new friend. but in this moment I am present, still listening to this fading feeling. Here I am; here I am; here is this life; this is a life, your whole life, my whole life; that’s what’s at stake, a whole being, a whole way of living, carved out of time like soft sandstone, like the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, all ways to live. What’s at stake is a way to live, and an alignment with it allows the world to burn bright, the windvane to spin excitedly and freely, turning to angle into the wind, into the wind, into the wind, into the wind.