Thursday, October 24, 2013

a bunch of lunges

and i'm sitting here eating sauteed kale and a trio of beans and i'm looking at each of these beans, scraping them up from the thin salsa pool on my plate and i'm thinking about how lucky i am to have these beans and it's stupid and new age and this kale is all so available to me and i did nothing to deserve these beans and this salsa and the temporary comforts of civilization but i'm doing my best to contribute to this world in the way i know how with the spirit of improving the experience and existence for myself and others by continuing to spread the availability of beauty and garden fare and whatever sails this seafaring ship of exploration like a trio of beans into the colors of the momentary void that we keep painting and repainting and this is not a prayer or a guilty form of gratitude, though it would be fair to suspect, it's only a fleeting thought, already blowing from my fingers and heart, out through living room window mixing with onshore winds while i'm swelling with new ideas both selfish and intuitive for activating an urgent expression of life and creation and the ability to catalyze.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

this is not a metaphor (part 2)

I don't want to write this. Bad sentence. Turning back was scary. I was getting cooked on top of that mountain. No one knew where I was. The Federal government was shut down. I kept thinking that the Federal government was shut down and so, on this Federal Land, a rescue helicopter couldn't arrive or it would cost way too much money if it did. Money, I missed money up there. The pursuit of money and all the stupid things people do huddled in their mankind. Nature is horrific, is why. That's why we have all this asphalt and insulation and electricity. It's because nature is horrific. I don't want to write this. It took me an hour getting back to that big Crystal Geyser bottle. I wanted to save some for the next lost passerby but I also wanted to soak myself in a flood. Dump the water on my head and body. So I did my best at both. And I drank a little bit. I know I shouldn't have. But I was thirsty and desperate and I wanted water because mine was long gone. Yes, I was pretty close to desperate.

I did this all to myself.

Survival became about discerning the proper trail out of the many snaking paths and gigantic obstructing rock formations. I had to surmise the vaguely-recognizable landmarks and attempt to recall how I had arrived above and around each one to get to where I was, stuck, and doing all that deciding took awhile and then in one particularly large collection of rocks, I was dwarfed by the largest rocks and climbing down into a pit within the rocks. There was no way to get through and I swear to God if there were no Mountain Lions living in the dark nooks and crevices of that jumble, I don't think they live at all. I know I keep bringing up the Mountain Lions and capitalizing their letters. Do I do this to heighten the danger? Did I want to do battle with a Mountain Lion? Do road bicyclists on the narrow shoulders of the Pacific Coast Highway secretly want to get hit by cars? Are we a culture primed by a Thanatos urging? Are there simply individual impulses that crave challenging their own unique mortality, especially when everyone around us seems to be wounded or out of control in their own different ways themselves, but wait that goes back to culture so let me try again. Do some of us simply want to die?

I didn't, want to die. Not wearing cargo shorts. Not up there. I wanted to live. That much I knew. Which made navigating that maze all the more alarming.

But I did navigate. A few wrong turns, backtracking, climbing, "could it have been this long's"? and then segment after segment of confusion just to get back to the main trail five miles from what I knew to be my car. I wanted to go sit in my car and cry or take an Instagram detailing my travails or both. Man must have purpose to survive, Instagram and crying momentarily became mine. Then finally, that passed and the terrain was beginning to appear familiar. Yes, I was recognizing species of bush and their frequency of occurrence and yes, a rock to the left, above yet another cliff, and the rock was flat like a bench and I remember seeing it on the way up and it was so smooth and flat but I couldn't sit down. If I sat down, I feared my muscles would cramp and lose power. They were getting tight, my muscles, especially in the sockets of my hip joints. My legs were stiffening. I still, yes, had five miles to go. I should mention, I had a walking stick now and it was helpful (and could be used as a spear) and I grew quite fond of this stick but also my trapeziums were getting tight, so I had to drop my stick but I was there anyway. I was on the proper trail and I was relieved. I knew the path. Thank God I found the path. By the way, did I make a few deals with God to get to this point? I don't quite recall. I believe there was something about living in honesty with my purpose if I could just get the hell out of there.

I had two miles down steep uneven trail. My feet hurt with every step. It wouldn't have been so bad in tennis shoes but these five-toed Vibrams were killing me. But complaining, that's a good sign, it meant I was getting closer to the Western World. Then I saw my first person in five hours. He was practicing karate down faraway on the trail, I could see a sliver of the ocean out by Ventura to my left and down, several phases below on the wide-open familiar trail, was that guy doing karate, wearing a black beanie and backpack. I wanted to ask him for water but he kept hurrying on before my approach. And then, then, at the bottom, a young couple were kind enough to have an extra water bottle in their backpack.

"You look like you're dying."

The young man said to me. I tried to explain my circumstances through parched throat but I think they wanted to continue away from me, like giving to a homeless person. I felt no shame in their charity. I gulped the twelve-oz in two swallows and continued. Brain off. It's what got me up the long, winding, steep trail that I knew awaited the end of my struggles. And I made it up. Saw two more people staring across the valley at my Cathedral mountain peaks and I wanted to tell them that I'd just been up there and seen the other side but I didn't want to get into it and they looked at me funny and when they passed, I crouched down and almost cried but I still had another half-mile or so to get to my car. Which I did manage. The sun almost gone when I arrived, opened the door, and gratefully sat down into the driver seat. And there were no missed calls on my phone.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

this is not a metaphor

I didn't want to die wearing cargo shorts. There was ridge after ridge, sharp rocky outcroppings that jutted above the disorienting trails which stretched miles beneath canopies of dry brush forest. I had no cell phone. Nudity from modernity, in the name of spiritual clarity without technology. It was my decision. I go hiking a lot without my cell phone. So what did I have? A rapidly diminishing twelve-oz bottle of Vons generic-brand water, cargo shorts with blue Dodgers t-shirt hanging out from the waistband like a tail, sweaty torso (especially my back, caked in a very discernible layer), a stupid wide-brimmed safari hat I bought as a joke in the clubhouse on the golf course years ago impulsively worn on my head, and then my damn five-toed frog shoes, holes in their bottoms and my feet getting bruised by the uncertain terrain with each step and it kept getting worse.

There were many steps.

Not initially, initially it was my hike as usual with a twist up to Danielson Monument. This guy, this Danielson (a Junior it said on the memorial plaque) he donated all this wilderness and he had a commemorative monument framing the nature, a monument that spoke of peace, love, Christianity, and it had a hunting Rifle adorning the left vertical pillar, a Rifle, cowboy spurs, roses, everything to portray a man of the West and it was all painted white and it was a remembrance. And I tried to pray or meditate. Standing there, it felt like I should try to do something observant, standing there, thinking of peace and love and light for all the people in and out of my life. And that was a good ten seconds before I wandered away. Three miles, according to the signs, into this monument and I still had an abundance of energy and the Pt. Mugu State park encompasses over 70 miles of preserved nature. Like a challenge, omen, mind-blowing recognition, ten minutes before arriving at the monument, two tall distant peaks hovered somewhere far above me like Cathedral ceilings. I figured that up there, perhaps they wouldn't be too unreasonable from a path that could lead down to the ocean on the other side. I had often dreamt of reaching the Pacific Ocean from this Hidden Valley side of the trail and I figured above and beyond them was the way to the shore, figured, though I'd never cared to look up the correct route.

The difference between a thirst for adventure and an act of self-idiocy, lives only in the fashioning of the results.

I turned from the monument, a chimney remained intact, alone under sycamore trees. To its left was a not so obvious trailhead. I followed it curiously at first, baby steps turning to determined ones uphill and uphill and soon my stride became something like obsession and I kept pushing and pushing and thinking I'd arrive at the roof of this mountainside to asses my array of options. But the trail kept going. Fragmenting soil would rise up overhead on both sides leaving a flood chute for phantom rains to sparsely arrive and create a river. But it was dry as a ghost. Then the brush grew over me, a tunnel, nothing to do but keep going through a tunnel. There is always light at the end of a tunnel, supposedly. Then more brush, altered in its shape, this brush but taller than me. Newbury Park and Hidden Valley was getting smaller through peeks between this dense brush. Yes, I could have turned back. One hundred more paces and I'd turn back. I kept saying that to myself but then would lose interest around the count of thirty or forty. The numbers were useless but I kept telling myself that I'd turn back and I'd mean it, but then the compulsion, curiosity, and indestructible belief in my physical ability, pushed and pushed and pushed me upward and upward up into the unrecognizable.

There is a lot going on in my life.

Everything was foreign, in myself and the terrain. Here in ancient native soil. It was foreign, planetary even, but I didn't think about it being planetary at the time. But yes, planetary. My breathing had changed, as did the altitude on this planet. It was no Kilimanjaro at only 2500 feet above sea level. And I never fancied myself Sir Edmund Hillary, just a hiker. Furthermore, I was not venturing into virgin territory anyway, there Was a trail (albeit a vanishing, dead-ending, straight through sharp vegetation at times trail), footprints, coyote shit, unnervingly fresh. And there were no people. Not for miles. I was the most isolated man in the greater Los Angeles area.

You couldn't have found me if you wanted to, if I wanted to, and that was the danger and probably the purpose.

Somewhere along the way I figured I'd just keep going to the ocean. That I'd find Sandstone Peak and everything would be familiar. My ex-girlfriend and I had spent two New Years Eves watching the sunset from Sandstone Peak together, huddled beneath loud hiking groups. We drank wine from the bottle and ate cheese from Trader Joes. Years ago, but I knew it well enough. I'd get there, admire my tenacity and then I'd take those trails down to the parking lot and I'd borrow a cell phone and call Trav and we'd write off my eccentricity in our mumbled fragmented conversations through Decker Canyon or something. Only, I couldn't find Sandstone Peak to save my life. The tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains was nowhere to be found. In fact, there was no guarantee I was anywhere near it. I thought I was, but apparently I wasn't. I've checked the maps online since yesterday and still have no idea its relation. But I kept going. The terrain angles down and then back up, bare earth, one particular lonely stretch feeling especially like a good place for a predator to sabotage its lonely prey. With sparse enough bush for the predator to hide but also enough free space to maintain its stalking pace. Was I being stalked by a predator?

There is a lot going on in my life.

I put my water bottle in my pocket (almost empty) and grabbed two sharp rocks, gripped them in both hands, and dropped them when I had to climb anything steep, then picked up new ones. And I had to pick up new ones a lot. I had to climb away from the brush. I didn't have to but I was climbing. The full-bodied experience of climbing. I began climbing with an alarming frequency. These big huge collections of sharp boulders resting high above trail, leading to what I'd surely hope was the final plateau before my rescuing descent into paradise, but the arrangements were confusing and their passages narrow and cave strewn and if mountain lions didn't live in these parts of California then the poor bastards are extinct because this was remote and the energy severe. Markedly severe and indifferent. This was a strange part of land, rolling waves with unfriendly growth and blind distances. Somewhere up there, between collections of tall-steep rocks and dramatic angles of land, I happened upon a small circular collection of stones, resting alone high above a one hundred-foot drop above barren hillside. The organization of the stones, alone, signalled the presence of a forgotten campfire, alarming because half the state park was still scorched black from last year's wildfire. This must have been after the fires and safely contained because above these stones, there was a 3/4 full big gallon bottle of Crystal Geyser. It was that tall, ridged, vertically rectangular bottle of Crystal Geyser. You know? Sometimes they sell 10 for 10.00 with your Ralph's Club Card? Sometimes they have those cheap handles? I wanted to gulp gratefully from the bottle after these several hours of demanding ascent and had little water left in my own 12 oz container, but I had seen too many survival shows to know something about bacteria. I didn't actually know much about bacteria but I was paranoid enough. So instead of drinking, I dumped a bunch of the water over my head. It was both cool and then warm from sitting out in the wind and heating in the sun on top of that cliff-side. Which reminds me, I haven't mentioned the sun, the ever-present sun, yesterday it was hot, intense, all day, but I didn't mind. The sun felt good and consistent. Actually, it was the shade up there that was terrifying. The moments I'd spend on the dark side of some gigantic thirty foot rock or another that would sink my spirits. The shade would reduce me, everything growing dark. Night could be like this if I was out here long enough.

The sun was my companion, the shade my fate. I feared.

No one knew were I was. I had either screwed myself or gotten my wish or maybe each was one in the same. The shade reminded me that things were bound to change. I'd begun my hike at noon and now the sun was, not inching, toward the ocean, footing, like, markedly inching, toward the ocean - which I could see fully now. I had scaled the tallest heights, arrived in the middle of jagged lands, and couldn't tell how much more I had to go to get to the ocean, the perspective sucked with all those ridges and down-phases in the land mass, but there was the ocean distant. I still had all this land. I was buried in all this land. Mired in all this land. There was so much land and it was all indifferent. That is what struck me, was how indifferent nature was to anything but itself. I began to project my own selfishness upon nature. And the ocean was a shade lighter than my already shade lighter Dodger Blue Dodger t-shirt and it, the ocean, was being pounded with a weighty glare from the sun and the reference of my viewpoint altered the appearance and it was the first time I can remember looking at the Pacific Ocean and feeling like it didn't contain anything resembling some kind of wholeness and/or peace. It was was the first time, outside of the ocean, I felt afraid of the ocean. Like it was only a pond, a grand pond. That the ocean was a grand pond with its own concerns. That it, and the forces it abides to were separate from me, and that hurt. And maybe now, thinking about it, I was being warned by that mother of mine. And it was further than I perceived. I knew it. I kept looking for a route, with reason and eyesight and my steps, my pained steps. But I couldn't find Sandstone. I'd glance far away South through my location and something like it, appeared. My feet throbbed. I wasn't sure I knew how to return. There is a lot going on in my life. I never stopped to sit down. I knew that stopping would weaken me. Gazing straight ahead, due West, there was another distant ridge that looked as though it preceded an unfathomably steep face and the trails were zigzagging across the mountains and hills and appearing and evaporating and so I finally convinced myself that I had to turn around. I had to turn around. There would be no phone call from the other side.

(part one)