Sunday, July 20, 2014

JMT 2014 Epilogue

Marie Lake and Seldon Pass
It's been a week since I have left the trail, completing the John Muir Trail in fifteen days. The trail for me was a total two hundred forty three miles, my average miles per day works out to about sixteen miles. Suddenly, or at least it seems suddenly, I am back to my non-hiking life. Another week has zipped by. Unlike when I was hiking, I don't have things that I can enumerate as having accomplished. I suppose I could document how many miles I drove, or how many people I talked to, or how many Doritos I ate, but who really cares about that stuff? I know I don't, except maybe the Doritos.
Being gone for two weeks changes things. It's sorta like being in a movie like 'Its a Wonderful Life' where the protagonist gets to see what the world would be like without himself. In that movie George Bailey finds that the world without him is a living hell. In my case, I came home to find that my house had become a living hell. The air conditioning had gone out and the outside temperature was one hundred and five in the shade, the inside temperature was a much cooler ninety five. Except upstairs where the bedrooms are it was about a million degrees. The most uncomfortable night I spent for two weeks was the first night back, sweltering in an oven. The second most uncomfortable night was the night before that at Guitar Lake, with the wind pulling out my tent stakes one at a time and whipping dust all over me and my stuff. My first few days back were consumed in looking for a good night's sleep.

Our lives are a constant battle against chaos and entropy. Not just us, but all living things. One of the things I kept seeing was various trees that had experienced adverse conditions throughout their lives. They had been shaped by the environment in which they grew. The choice was simple 'deal-with-it' or die. I think that is also true for us human beings to. Like that misspelled bumper sticker says, 'Stuff Happens'. Deal with it. Get over it, and unless you are a tree that can't walk, move on.
I think perhaps the part I enjoyed most about the trip was the aspect of moving on. Whatever had happened on a given day, however great, or difficult, or whatever it was, the next day was a day of moving on. Like Scarlett's last lines in Gone with the Wind, "Tomorrow is another day". Duh, no kidding! How often, though, do you sit around living and dwelling in the past. When you are thru-hiking the past is always behind you, where it belongs. The future is always before you, where it belongs, and you live in the present, which is the only place you belong and the only place where the past and the future meet. The only place you have control. You get to choose in the present whether to take the next step, or to stop.
Quaint Mammoth Lakes Trolley
Non-hiking life is not quite so obvious. It's sometimes not clear if you are taking a step or dwelling in the past. Sometimes dwelling in the past looks like taking a step, but you are actually walking back down the trail you came up. One of the saddest events of my trip was when I met a guy who kept wandering over the same ground he had been to before. His summers consisted of planning trips to places he had already been where he would see things he had already seen. The places had significance to him because of what he had experienced before. Those same places were now empty of that significance. He was living in the past, the only voices he heard were ghosts in the wind, memories flitting through his mind of his better days gone by.
The things that you do with your life are in need of your constant attention. Whether relationships, your house, or your bicycle. Life often seems to be about maintenance, fixing the stuff that needs fixing. You are like a repairman in a little blue suit with a matching cap. You walk around with a couple of wrenches in one pocket and a couple of screwdrivers in the other. Fixing the stuff that keeps breaking. The sad thing is, it's going to break again, and someday you won't be there to fix it. I think God is better at fixing stuff than I am. If it's worth keeping, he is going to have to fix it. If it's broken, it's time to lay it down and leave it behind.

That sounds good except that when I broke the disposable razor that I planned on using to keep my face clean and baby-butt smooth, I ended up carrying the rest of the trip. God never fixed my razor and I finally threw it away when I got home. The air conditioning guy finally fixed my air conditioning. If he hadn't, I don't think that I could have continued to live in my own house. Yet I stayed there and did whatever it was that I needed to do to get it working again. The air conditioning guy knew I would do whatever it took too, I just got his bill. There is always a cost to keeping stuff working. When thru-hiking you have left so much stuff behind that you have very few things. There is much less cost to fix it and you can spend more time thinking about the important things, like "When am I going to be able to eat another Dorito tortilla chip?"

Sometimes it seems like 'What's for dinner?' is about the extent of the 'deep-thoughts' one has when you are on a thru-hike. In my opinion, that's still better than a mind so cluttered with the 'cares of this world' that you have no time for any of your own thoughts. It is horrible to live your life enslaved to the things you think you own, captured in a web of your own making. Thinking you are in control when in reality you are controlled by the things you 'own' and circumstances in which you have placed yourself.
All in all, I enjoyed my sojourn through God's creation. I found it an uplifting and spiritual time as much as it was a nitty-gritty, real-life, live-in-the-dirt time. I think its interesting that God originally made man as a gardener. Our blue suits and caps are just our own sophisticated way of living out the role that God instilled within us. Tend your own garden!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on a trip. I checked back often to view your progress.
    The writing was fun and insightful. Characters popped in and out akin to Pilgrim's Progress. Thank you for sharing your trip.