Sunday, April 10, 2011

Walden Weekends: Busier Than Usual and My Philosophy of Hiking.

The first weekend was hard, not using the internet, not checking facebook… I found myself having to make conscious efforts to stay disconnected. I kept wanting to know what the people I know were up to, if anyone had commented on my status, or left a comment on my wall. But, in an effort to be present, I resisted. I decided that every time I thought about going online, I would instead pray for guidance, or for a job in San Diego, and that distracted me well enough until the desire passed for the time. That was last weekend. This is week two.

Yesterday I drove Benjamin and Jaason to the airport, drove to south San Jose in search of a free barbecue smoker I’d seen an ad for on Craigslist on Friday (without an exact address). I found the place, but no barbecue. “Someone else got that this morning. We’ve sold a bunch of stuff for really good prices… and then somebody stole our money box.” “Wow, I’m sorry about that. That really sucks.” I said, secretly cursing them for putting “12 to 3” on their ad when they obviously intended on opening things up much earlier. So I went home, sad about not having a smoker that I would not have any space for when I move anyway, and continued working on my pipe. The pipe has turned out well so far… though it’s a little rough. You can see some places where the chisel gouged into it, so I might go back over it with a sander and smooth it out. It should look really nice if the warmth from the bowl, and the oils from my hand, give the wood a slight red tint like I believe they will. It was a lengthy process though. If I were selling it, and only charging for it what my normal hourly wage would be, the pipe would cost roughly $130… but it was a Saturday, so I’d be charging time and a half.

Today was hiking up at Castle Rock, and helping Joseph and Laurel get a new couch (which I learned after I got home was located between here and Castle Rock).

There are a few things about hiking (and, I suppose, the wilderness in general) which I’m less than happy about… but there is one thing, especially problematic in spring and summer, which is enough of a problem that it causes me to question whether I want to go out anymore. More than the possibility of sunburn, insect bites, poison oak rashes, pain, injury, animal attack, and getting lost (which are, at best, irritating and inconvenient, and at worst… deadly, in the case of animal attacks. Though… death is really only a mild inconvenience for the person it comes to), people are the one thing that makes me consider not hiking. During spring and summer, there are entirely too many other people hiking. I imagine this will only be the case until I fall and hurt myself, and need help… then there will not be a person for a hundred miles of course.

My philosophy (if we’re using the word in the typical sense, where “philosophy” is not the art of thinking, or the method by which we come to a conclusion, but rather the conclusion which that thinking has lead us to) on hiking is two-fold. First: Show some respect. Second: Eyes and ears open, mouth shut. I wonder what it is that causes a person to go hiking when they have so little respect for nature that they just drop their garbage wherever they lost use for it. Why, if you don’t care about any of the beautiful things around you, would you deign to be there?

I wonder what causes a person with so little reverence for this great open cathedral that they would spoil it with their complaintive and selfish conversations to choose this out of all the peaceful places to disturb.

On the way, I passed a couple of young women who had stopped to take a picture. As it is my custom when hiking to not say hello unless someone else has said it (because I know that, for many people, hiking is meditative, and I don’t want to break someone else’s concentration), they said hello and I replied as I passed by. I increased my pace to make sure I had enough space to stop occasionally without being overtaken, because I want to be able to look around and observe the beauty before me without interruption. But it seemed that every time I stopped they were behind me, complaining about colleagues, or classes, or God knows what... in reality, they were a hundred feet or more behind me, but that’s the nature of open places and shrill voices. I came to a fork in the road. One way said “ridge trail” the other “to camp grounds”. Guessing that the ridge trail would offer more scenic views, I bet my pursuers would take that, and I opted for the camp trail. I chose poorly. After about twenty more minutes of trying in vain to get out of ear shot, I decided that it was close enough to the time I would need to turn back, and stopped and waited for them to pass. I was tempted to stop them as they went by, to ask if they had noticed the hawks soaring a couple hundred feet above the tree tops and a hundred feet below us, or if they’d seen what an amazing living patchwork quilt the world is in places like this where groves of madrone and oak and pine and redwood wrap around and through one another… but they were far too busy talking about coworkers and Stanford to be bothered, so I let them go by in peace.

In the fall and winter these trails are much like the thick grove in the Degoba swamp (I know you nerds know what I’m talking about). Luke asks, “What’s in there?”, and Yoda replies, “Only what you bring with you.”. But now that it’s warming up, it’s hard to find ten seconds where you can’t hear another person, or see a discarded bag of sunflower seeds. What is drawing these people out here instead of to a public park, or coffee shop, or any number of places with trash cans and conversational atmosphere provided? Why, when I try to escape from the aggravations of what is allegedly the civilized world does all the worst of it insist on following me? I’m considering making a patch to put on my backpack (and would have stickers made if putting them on trail signs wasn’t considered defacing public property) that say “Eyes and ears open. Mouth shut.”… also, I’ll be looking for less populous trails.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you're talking about. Star Wars allegories are always appreciated.

    I'm wondering why you didn't just say some of these things to these girls in a whisper. Maybe you could make patches and hand them out.