"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

07 February 2016

Epilogue; Back to the World, or, Beyond its End

On a recent walkabout through the town cemetery, we witnessed a miracle of wind-loaded snow. We laughed ourselves sick...

Come down music...

It was the twentieth of January when we arrived home around five in the afternoon. How I maintained consciousness for another four hours still baffles me. The feeling of sleeping in my own bed was akin to the warm embrace of a long-lost lover.

Yes, I did ask my pillow the next day if it was good for it too, what of it?

Six days later, on my first real walkabout since returning from the island, I noted direct sunlight had returned to the house. I had a glass of wine out in the first soft daylight of two months in celebration. As far as I'm concerned, when the Long Dark ends, winter is halfway over. Then again, in my timekeeping, winter starts when the sun no longer rises above the ridge, and that's mid-November. Perhaps I function best in places where time is something of a dodgey concept.

Of course, I was back to a place I did have to keep better track of hours and minutes, rather than just whether or not it was night or day, what with professional obligations and all. Life slid back into familiar rhythms fairly quickly.

There were obligations and errands. Meals and walkabouts on the free days. We came across fresh cat tracks in fresh snow. It was glorious, but I am unsure if it was a mountain lion or bobcat. See, the fresh blood in the snow helped to talk us out of further investigation, despite the coolness of the National Geographic moment. Besides, it would have been a dick move to disturb the cat during its dinner, not to mention potentially fatally dangerous.

Seeing those tracks served as perspective. On the island, upon land, the most vicious predator was a species of primate that had figured out how to manipulate fire. All the scary beasties were out in the ocean. Here in the mountains, things with tooth and claw walk the same same trails we do.

Because I live in a smaller community, people I didn't even tell, but were acquainted with, would ask me how my trip was. With a fair amount of glibness, I would say it was okay, which was meant with a chuckle at me being a card. Many of these cats are used to me saying the mountains are okay if you're into sweeping views and juxtaposed geography.

Every so often, I catch myself missing the backbeat of the tropics; the chatter of the local wildlife at night and the surf against the lava rocks. Other than alpine breezes, it can be rather silent in the mountains at night. It was a jarring lesson I had to relearn.

I do dream of the island. I dream of whales, which is kind of fantastic. Part of me would love to have the skull of one. Then I catch myself wondering where I'd hang such a thing.

The superstitious sort might see my whale dreams as portents. Lifetimes ago, I might have, but these days, I know a little better. A Pagan's spell may not work. A prayer to a deity may go unanswered. An omen can be misconstrued.

So it goes...

I started to meditate on how the trip has changed me, and immediately realized how absurd that was. Sure, how oh so romantic to say x place changed you, but I haven't got a romantic bone in my body. The reality is you're changed the moment you walk out your door, even if it's just to run down to the store for ice cream. On some level every walkabout has left me changed.

There is a term for those who are not changed by experiences; dead...

I am happy to be home, make no mistake. There are the peaks and being in my own house. It's nice to see the familiars again and not to be tripping over six other people to refill one of my water bottles. When I look out a landscape, I remember that sleep-deprived catharsis of the first night back. This is Kashmir. My place in the world. A preservationist of my acquaintance has a similar experience when she comes back from traveling, and she wanders the globe for want of something to do. I think of her as something of a mentor, so the fact she shares that experience is something I find infinitely comforting.     


  1. Been out on your snowshoes lately? A friend in Butte has been using my old Alaskan style ones, around 6 feet long made of alder and leather sinew, for some traipsing around.
    I'm still in Seattle, was 60 yesterday and 62 today, Spring to my way of thinking. Even a few daffodils up.

    1. I've not been out near as much as I'd like. Because my guru/guide has been dealing with some life issues, I've not even gotten my ice climbing lesson. Part of me questions if it'll happen this season or not. Some of those old school shoes are something I covet. They go for quite a bit in antique stores around here.

      It's been chinook with the winds and nearly fifty the last two days. The snow is getting mushy. I wonder if I'll start smelling mud.