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Pacific Northwest

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From the very beginning it must have tugged at my imagination to understand and find interest, or at least become curious enough to share this thought at the end of the year. For better or worse that has become my principle interest if anything to amuse myself and anyone else reading this posting. When I was much younger one year ago the notion of a coming new year was considered a crowning achievement and a worldwide symbol of promise. For me it is a notion of giving into what will come up next as both a challenge and an embracement of the yet unknown without fear. I give into it simply because the unknown gives me pleasure.

That it is represented as signals, symbols or noise is not necessarily predictable even though traces of the past will soon enough cross over into the future. That it is the possibility of hope, the comfortably assured continuance of existence. The myth of the Mayan Calendar has passed; I am assured that science was the answer. But the fact that it is coming gives me pleasure though not necessarily an answer to the questions that I may leave behind at the close of the year. Not everything needs to be answered in linear fashion with respect to time and space; consider for once the quantum question provides no answer in this lifetime. I will instead average 2012 to take that leap into 2013 as a trip I begin in the next several seconds of a lifetime as a branching condition. I will begin this leap into the future without greater concern given the tools I have retained to date.

This is an impression I intend to keep as I start my life all over heading out into the great outdoors at my feet. Does each New Year give us the right to reset? I think so. And to whom it may concern: the mountain top I see through the clearing of the tall cedars is a gateway out of 2012 and into 2013. No greater satisfaction can be found in this vista beauty waiting to be penetrated by my voice and the sound of my footsteps over loose dirt and gravel. When I saw it I knew I had to take it on with ease and comfort because it represents the best sight in the world at this present time. It is a world of analog design and quantum fit, never reduced to digitalization in real time.

Could I ever image a better picture, painting or sculpture that what it depicted through the next framing o tree branches and the backdrop of a deep blue sky at the end of December. My pleasure is in the fact that it is the warmest winter in history for the Pacific Northwest, so defined by the commission which obliges me to enter into it with an open mind to its possibilities even though it is still very cold. My friends are all in resorts south of here in Baja and to the west in Hawaii. I must face this planned trip alone even though this forested area is crowded with wildlife. It is a busy intersection. Enter that I will and can because it keeps me busy instead of wishing a rewrite of the past year or making resolution for the one upcoming. This is not work although it is done with equal amounts of preparation and perspiration.

There is reason enough to assume it will take strength to climb up the next winding path along the river that rushes by in the opposite direction. The noise is deafening but I acclimate to it immediately. As close as I can get to the next bend in this river I can feel the cold it gives off like walking into an ice cave. The next pool I come across begs me to stop and admire this perspective from the comfortable top of a fallen log—arrival into the best memory of my life. Snap: another still life is taken.

From the very moment I sit down on the edge of this fallen tree I arrive at a vista to 2013. It is a most unusual framework I am ready to admit because I almost did not come here initially for fear of the cold. Understand it is the warmest winter in recent history yet I am still chilled to my very core with open eyes to the waters rushing past in torrents so harsh it is felt in the pit of my stomach. Under these circumstances I am solidly put on top of this tree and I cannot afford to fall in because what little powers I have left getting here will not be enough to rescue me. I am not weak, nor am I rusty with respect to self rescue. I have survived much worse on the ocean or in the fast changing tides within Puget Sound. But these torrents have opened my eyes and ears and my wit to know what is going on around me. For better or worse something else might happen. I want to stay here forever: the powers of observation necessary in the dense forest afford nothing less.

After leaving the tip of the tree I head upward. My ascent takes me away from the water and to the very base of a glacier. This is a non fashionable attempt to reach the base because I have also left the main trail to get here; ice and snow now crunching pleasantly under my hiking boots. I continue to follow less than approved routes across the glacier, in and out of the shadows of the sparse tree lines. It is like crossing a border: leaving one city behind and entering into another: look at how splendid the mountain looks this close up. Do I have a preference looking up verses down? Well, not any more likely than remembering 2012 past and embracing 2013 future. Each had its investment: to which they belong, none preferentially; one place over another. This is working capital I suppose.

I eventually look down as though there has been a flip of the proverbial coin. I am indebted to this choice because I can see the lake that I have been looking for the last hour. It is close by but not as easy to get to as I had wished. I will need to cross a very large section of soft snow and hard pack ice without the creature comforts of appropriate snow climbing equipment. I rarely follow approved routes when I travel.

And while crossing I can hear and then see other people at the same elevation as me, and scrambling toward the same inter mountain valley. It is a common pathway coming from the north or the south. No two climbers alike: I am fascinated by the differences in mode of dress as two are garbed in shorts and shirts: compare and contrast this to my jeans and down jacket. There is no middle ground clothing-wise; not to obsess with anyone else’s preference for comfort to my own. This crossing makes us all breath harder and we smile politely at each other’s style or mode until the stillness is broken by our cumulative laughter.

“It seems we are on two different continents.”

One says this out loud while the other offers whatever it is in this bota bag being passed across the makeshift continental divide. It is brandy and it tastes mighty fine. My fellow mountain climbers are better prepared than I. It is a wonderful fleeting moment.

With this fresh and unexpected commission we part ways with my heading north and the two heading south. I have imparted my knowledge of descending to that winding and noisy river. Beverage in exchange for what I can offer to share: panoramas up or down: that snaking river they were looking for and a way back to their mode of transportation that got them here.

“Happy New Year,” I exclaimed before they are out of earshot.

It is my working knowledge of nature and its composition that sends me toward the glacial pass and around the top of this mountain. I will want to look back on this day and see my climb around a road less passage, down into another tree lined valley, and hidden from all other means of civilization—this brandy motivated descent. Consider this posting as prose or verse between the counted words that span from one year and into the next during my journey. As you read it 2013 will already be here as familiar as finding someone else’s footsteps in the snow or the sand.

No, I did not forget to recount the steps down off of this mountain and back along the side of a snaking river. The pictures provided are just as useful to envision the end to end journey. Or better yet get outside and track these same circles for a beautiful journey of your own. Bring a camera or capture the vistas in your mind; with that wisdom to remember I do applaud. As for me: the next journey I intend to take on my way around the world has been paid for by the seconds that have already passed between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. This is my working capital as planned.

A very Happy New Year to you all whether you are climbing up or down, circling clockwise or counter, trampling across sand or snow to the beautiful places we engulf for pleasure.

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