As I was raised, I was told that practice makes perfect and as a generally obsequious youth I simply nodded, took note and continued listening. It is to my great dismay and disappointment, however, that a certain daily activity that I have now practiced at least 10,400 times has not been perfected. As I have grown older I still do detest getting up in the morning. No matter which hour is set, the buzz of the alarm finds me cold, cranky and unwilling to face the world for at least thirty seconds, at which point I release a bone-chilling battle cry and leap into the world in naught but my skivvies, ready for whatever is thrown in my way. If we listen to the ideas of Karl Popper, we can at this point properly refute the theory that practice makes perfect because we have found the negation of the original hypothesis. Served, bitches!
Permit me to pirouette to the point. It's been a year since the first volume and I am now older and wiser and still rambling pedantically about nothing in particular. Call it an unfortunate syndrome, if you will. If I were extraordinarily wealthy I would be called 'eccentric;' as it stands factually, it is more common to hear phrases such as 'a few screws loose,' or 'he won't shut up.' Asi es la vida.
With a view like this I won't talk much
Being that this is my season of unemployment, as in I have no long term contractual obligations to an employer, I seek to spend some lovely time self-reflecting in the vast desert of the American Southwest. Call it cliché, call it predictable, call it what you will. The truth remains that the desert is an awe inspiring and desolate place to help individual growth. So much so, in fact, that we have a literary archetype based exclusively on peoples raised in the desert. A brief overview: the Aiel in Wheel of Time, the Fremen in the Dune series, even Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. The stereotype encourages rugged individualism, an ascetic perspective, and a strangely high cultural value on hand to hand combat.
The existence of this archetype is a derivative of evolution: only the strong survive. In the harsh environs of the desert, where water is scarce, food is meager and certain death is only a stone's throw away, it takes a certain fortitude to survive. From the ability to survive comes an inherent strength to survive, a vitality that may have been overlooked in more hospitable climes. This seems to be the empirical basis to literary element. Being able to immerse myself in a similar environment and encourage some kind of grand mental delusion is a start; walking down a narrow canyon carved by a trickle of water in rock that is upwards of 200 million years old really drives the point home. Add to it the sheer scale of the terrain, the hallucinogenic heat, the absence of a human population, and the absolute silence of a watershed, and it really gets quite simple to focus on how insignificant we all individually are. And when I feel tiny and trifling and negligible, it becomes easy to break my faults and failures because they are a small part of inconsequential being.
Feeling small in big places
This leads me to my next point (who even knew I had one?): the big 'C' Concepts of 'desolation' and ‘wilderness’ is spoiled by seeing other people. That's why the Grand Canyon has only the aura of mysticism about it when viewing it from the designated North and South rims--the presence of humans detracts from the natural experience. But enter the hallowed halls of its depths where isolation and lack of contact add to the experience and now, now you have an experience of the true magnitude of wilderness. And herein lies the lovely paradox of experiencing foreign places, whether it be Thailand or Table Mountain: it is wild because nothing familiar is there, but experiencing it reduces its foreignness due to the intrusion of an outsider. Anthropologists are familiar with the concept and call it the Observer Effect.
Wide open country
As a total tangent, this is why the LNT policy is so damn important. We live and exist in a culture that is very comfortable with single-use goods. Historically, this has not always been the case, which is why archaeologists get so jazzed up when they find a refuse heap or garbage dump. In the long run, the disposable goods of the past have been highly biodegradable and leave no readily observable trace. In our modern era, the reverse is true. Many of the goods we commonly consume, from canned foods to plastic bags to bottles of dish soap, are intended for a single use and carry disposable packaging that is here for the long haul. Connecting back to the point from the prior paragraph, nothing really quite ruins the mood of a good wilderness experience like stumbling across somebody's disposed midden heap.
So as I run to the desert for some alone time, you may notice that my direction is always somewhat vague and ambiguous. Truth be told, it's less of me trying to keep a secret and more because I'm often not sure where I'm actually going. I've got a guess, usually, but if that place doesn't feel right I look at the map and try again. I know what I'm looking for, though, I just don't know where I'll find it. In other words, I've got no place in particular to go and all damn day to get there.
Sunrise on the San Rafael Reef