The Preface of Whatever:
Columbus NM to Greer AZ
I want to walk slow. Slowly enough to process a ramble, to define a curve rather than a structural straight line, let alone to work out the kinks. Despite my pasty legs, which is unusual, this seems not to be physical. After all, the last long distance trek was merely 5 months ago. A hangover of sorts; I’m slow to think, as if things are so drawn out time appears deadened, numb to the stifling and penetrating wind out here. For it blows, blows enough to simply forget yet churn the cogs. Like an equation I cannot solve I must find the missing constant first.
I want to be nice to myself, and this is the only place I feel tranquility. Away from it all, the normal, the civilized, the normalcy and the standard; the way we are supposed to do things. I will not neglect what it means to be human. This is where I feel free. I want to walk slow, slowly free, away from you. The grind, the pain and self-inflicted torture, the erosion...
My pace is determinate of my interpretation, my understanding of a problem, of a landscape, or my immersion in your world. A dash-dive turn into the Chihuahuan desert and I am roaming, moving decidedly efficient through the greasewood maneuvering my torso to avoid the tentacles of the ocotillo. I follow random washes discerning the relationship of dirt and seldom-seen water, of what ravages rock. Automatically I am seeking flow, forgiveness. Funny, sometimes what is distinctly barren is full of a purpose and goals, something from deep within, a radar of clarity, blipping in unison with a choppy heart, a tractor beam through muck. Then, I pull a few green sprigs off of a mesquite and rub the sprigs between two fingers. I am expecting a refreshing and sweet desert smell, yet as I blend my fingers and the crushed sprigs I smell shit crescenting over the aroma of the mesquite. It is a fusion of worlds that brings me back to me, to what is a reality in my life, the realness of me.
That night I slept near a windmill, the wind chime of isolation, the harp of the desert. Nothing was around me but rock, shrubs, spiky cacti, and emptiness. I made it, this long road. I hurt; I am at the point that the only one I want to thank is myself. I am grateful for people, but I don’t owe anyone shit. This tirade is not about the duration of 5 months rather than what filled the 5 months. I had a dream that night. Freediving about 100 yards offshore, I dove deeper through shades of deep blue. I sought something in the blue black darkness. I encountered a shadow, a silhouette of a shark. Afraid and exhilarated, I felt the palpability of unknowing, the security within a darkness. I know, whatever journey I am on, I will test my soul.
There is so much imperfection in attaining balance. I feel that needs to be said out loud. The storms rolling in only dissipating curtains of drizzle that taunt a sun-scorched plain, or the bees unabashedly diving in like a kamakazi pilot into the tubs and troughs of water merely to flounder in failure for the hive. Both show a fervency, a panic in nature of an entity obsessed. Flaws pockmark our skin less than what is scarred on the inside, of what scratches and pokes through from underside of skin, of what boils the marrow free from the innards of bone. Only in dry and aged wrinkles shall I flood the system. More time outside in the wild, under the baking sun, shall I wear out my welcome, shall I shed this fucking skin. Maybe volume is key. Then again, only more bees will drown fruitless in a tub of water spinning in circles from the frantic flapping of its iridescent wings. Maybe I am simply looking for a grip to climb out of the trough.
Would I rather learn from dumb people or smart people? I thought about this at times this last Winter when my job seemed the most important thing in my life. It’s a well-rounded question because both have a useful broadening of information, of carving out an informed experience. However, how can one be unbiased, or non-judgmental, or favoring; objective or subjective. I flatly state that even though I feel it seems a travesty of goodness. Connection can influence what you absorb, while the contrary can reject an opportunity to learn. I think an unencumbered isolation is as big an affect as an impressionable immersion. There’s a point here: I’m nicer when I’m in the wilderness, and more slyly ornery when I’m with people. I connect with people when I am in the wilderness. I am objective when I am in nature. I do not do well otherwise. And I say this with trembling words: this has never been about you; this has been about me.
In life consequences sometimes seem a flippant act based off mood and not even as much as the rules we are supposed to live by, that are constructed on what’s fair. I want to surround myself with smart people but is there any empathy I can exert to even try to achieve everyone’s expectations. I’m beginning to think that if leadership isn’t revolved about being in the moment when the ego is gone, when the team is foremost, then the act alone of being a leader is simply an egotistical choice. In the moment, I’m the one you want; long term, find a flunkey, cater to the sycophant. Adapt and solve, maneuver and figure the situation out on the fly; fight. Therein lies the consequences I seek, that matter. In nature I find vitality through these consequences that I cannot find elsewhere. What did I learn this Winter from your world? I just want to be in nature even more so.
In the end, I want to learn from good people more so than successful people. After all, success is only relevant. Being significant, on the other hand, that is what is truly impactful. Longevity, loyalty, pillars, all traits I admire that I believe I have traces of. But being good, now, I may not have much of that. To blend in sometimes a charade must be played. I came to a mountain spring running full like the cool refreshing water is always there. Up high on the crest a spring spews water, a head water, and begins a fluid life. Where do you go? When do you end? What wash, where the rock and grit pile up? Where do you go underground or dry up? Why do you define such beauty so simply? Yet you define the whole landscape leaving an indelible impression. Pleasant to the ears the rush, tantalizing and shimmering to the eyes a thrill, crisp and pure the taste of sustenance, and the baptismal cleansing and icy touch the reminder. But the power, almost unknown, unfathomable, imperceptible to my eyes to ascertain any form of semblance.
Jokes aside and a depressive rant if you will, I am not saving the world. I merely am being who I am. Despite the mask in which a self-hatred may be possessed. However I feel the necessity, I understand sometimes you have got to sacrifice beliefs, exercise sensibility, and shelve the ego to do what you have to do in order to do what you love to do or how you choose to live. Furthermore, in holding my stance, I am doing what I want to do.
This delicate cycle emerges familiarly to me. I touch this interstitial space, tip toeing an intangible line that I appear acceptable. Yet I cannot wait shred my shins through thorny locust shrubs, through overgrown paths. Like a yearly rite of passage I morph and shed whatever suit or hat I had been wearing. A smile appears on my face, the heart opens up, as a menthol tingling on the legs shiver gleefully. This morphing, from the thorn thrashing, from my trodding progress feels seemingly contradictory, a running in circles of sorts, these two worlds I stride over in and out, one wholly immersed and of an act of utter self, from a mongoloid to a human, a glutton for growth and punishment, a Sisyphusian contradiction; ultimately, the effort is worth it, this shedding, molting, to bring value to my life, purpose. This magnetic essence of being feels greater than my existence, this symbolism of self and societal rebellion. I am me, yet I am not you or me. I am always was, here and now.
One mid-morning I walked upon a cow pond. I didn’t mean to scare the 5 ducks waddling in the pond, but my presence alone did. I decided to take a break. I relaxed and laid back on my backpack. The same ducks whooshed in above my head sounding like an airplane with their wings in the gliding position. I observed them circle over and over in concentric circles that started wide and high and eventually narrowed in to a tighter circle. I could tell the ducks were scoping the scene out, feeling the safeness of the pond they wanted to wade in. Suddenly, they plunged in and splash-landed. I instantly thought about some decisions this past Winter, circling high and wide, observing, a warning or threat, or positive encounter, feeling I was being cautious, and sometimes plunging in carelessly, or a tad rash, however, whatever plunge occurred I had good intentions. I question the source and if this plunging was instinctual, essential to me. Nevertheless, I circled in a probably splashed landed clumsily rather than the smooth hydroplaning of the 5 ducks.
Something darted blurringly off to my left in the oak thicket. I quickly stopped to investigate and saw nothing. Two steps later a cougar leapt out in front of me and dashed up into another thicket. Less than two hours later after tussling through mangled trail strewn with logs and thorny shrubs I startled a black bear. He grunted and huffed really loud that signifies he was pissed. We both were getting back up to the crest, trudging through a fire-scarred hillside. He turned towards me and held his ground. I did the same. I had no choice. I stood up on a large fallen tree to look imposing to the large bear. I yelled at him as he huffed back. Amidst a stand off, he took towards me and stopped quickly. A bluff, I yelled back and circled around him to give a wide berth. But I let my stance be known.
I love these old mountains. The fire scarring, the wilds, the isolation, the howling and melodious wind, the cantankerous history; the old in them, that is what I love, this Black Divide.
But the details didn’t elude me while covering rugged land through the Gila Wilderness. A wild spirit loomed, heavy in this Spring after a heavy Winter. Lonesome and wild, the Gila was perfect. Tall ponderosa forests accompanied me most of the day with decent trail weaving and undulating through random canyons and broad parks. Three passes afforded me some views but the lizard trees brought me the most joy. Seemingly ancient and petrified alligator junipers, large and robust perching racks, housed scrambling lizards. Through fissures lizards would scramble and find a hideaway, a maze underneath the skin, protection and safety; no one really knows what is on the inside.
A few days later, deep snow lingered on the Mogollon Crest. I trudged through some hip deep postholes which only tingled my shredded legs from overgrown and thorny paths. I even fell into a trapdoor tree well. I swam with my legs and reached for some low lying branches. I managed to get out and my adrenaline stayed off the cold. The wind howled screechingly through dead totems as I molted time worn. Lady bugs in the snow, slowly prancing over pleated aretes where the sun has affected the crystals, I spotted the ubiquitous ladybugs. The lovers all kept me company at various mental anguishes, at indeterminate exertions that broke me free of my mind and drive. ‘Hey, lover...why are you up here.’
A statement, flat out. I want to walk slow. Slowly enough to process a ramble, to define a curve rather than a structural straight line, let alone to work out the kinks. Wherever I am headed I want to do what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I want to do it. The only influence I want is me, and nature. That’s the connection I crave. And I know what the constant is in the insolvable equation.
What I am doing is conceptual, my freedom. I built a loose plan and I will plan each section I walk based off difficulty, wildness, preference, scenic value, curiosity, and accessibility. Like road trip, free roaming, yet on foot, I will have my feet describe a route rather than a name. This is all mine, where I want to go, and my intimate knowledge of the wide West coupled with my time given off I will explore at my fancy and whim, my own compass, simply walking and writing and thinking.
I spotted a bobcat up on a green and lonesome mesa dashing through the thick alligator juniper stands. Purple darkness draped the lingering day from my high and flat vantage point. I slept comfortably on a hard and cobble ground understanding the only thing greater than my drive, my anti-conformity, is my curiosity and my urge to roam.
Through the Blue Range Primitive Area, old west style trails, everything was cobbly and thorny. Old corrals still stood albeit crooked and slanting, rickety. Tough cows roamed these trails, a tumble breed roving far and wide here. Along the Blue River I followed fresh bear tracks, although no ordinary bear tracks. A large bear, the left forefoot left a mangled mark. Facing inward, drag marks left a trace in front of the big paw after each stride. The Blue Range essence is survival. This rough country, these animals, the weathered folks, all emblematic of survival. As is with Raspberry Basin. Fire ravaged and scorn, life tries to pursue an existence in a very vulnerable place.
On the Highline beneath the Mogollon Rim, in and out of drainages and up and over knolls or shoulders, undoubtedly I had been one of the first, if not the first, to cross that trail since last late Fall or early Winter. I found elk sheds, even a full set, sticky and varnished brown, probably worth a pretty penny. I dodged storms all day, in which curtains of a dark smeared sky loomed in the distance. From whatever random source I stayed relatively dry. I could not help but recall the dark phase I had been in, that hollow apartment, that paincave. Above me, sunlight swirled, and in the distance a storm blurred a contorted landscape.
Steeply up into Bear Wallow I attained the Mogollon Rim again. Hail pelted on my umbrella as I hunched knelt beneath a girthy ponderosa, the chilly wind cooling me off from the sweat earned from the 2000ft ascent. I plunged down Schell Canyon and into the Bear Wallow. The name implied a vortex, a funneling of emptiness, a blank stare. Flood damage scarred the canyons gouging out a deep creek channel with fragile banks and occasionally a log jam way above the banks barricaded the way down. Tall and slender pines reached for the skies from a inverted scarp, a pit. Thunder boomed above and echoed in a spiraling reverberation of hollow walls and slopes. Inside this wallow felt to be in a cavern with a thunderous heartbeat; introspection.
All this effort recently, a choice not of my own necessity but to go slow rather than of the terrain. My medicine, my evolvement, my metamorphosis; it is here. For me; not you, not I, but for me, for the was, and for the fucking ride forward.