Elk droppings lay fresh and steaming outside the van, footprints cut deep into the soft sand and shallow in the gravel along the edge of the road. Ravens argue meters from the van, no doubt over remains left at neighboring campsites.
My morning ritual is to survey the grounds around the van collecting evidence of wild creatures that may have come in the night but left unseen. Over the last month I have non-confirmed visits from coyotes, deer, elk, mice (confirmed actually), rabbit, and cat (presumably Bobcat). The sun is slowly rising over the juniper, pine, and cottonwood. It’s light reflects off the gold, orange, and green leaves that surround camp. As it does, I reflect on this week’s events.
The week holds several milestones. I turned 48. The milestone turned over slowly, with effort, like the van odometer when it flipped 100,000 miles. It took effort to get past the resistance of turning all those digits over, but then it fell abruptly into place, fixed on a large number. The week also marks one year in relationship with my Dirty Good Company cohort, Susan. I can’t determine if the year passed quickly or slowly; we’ve been fully engaged in the planning, and now living, of the DGCO. life. Additionally, several off the beaten path lifestyle milestones occurred this week; four months living in the 1993 Chevy G30 van, two months traveling across the West, and 3,000 miles traveled since leaving Bend, OR in September. I can say for certain the van is a time machine, becoming a time capsule. We’ve successfully slowed time.
With the milestones, particularly the one which has me crawling toward Fifty, come thoughts on life, where I stand, where I’m headed. Though frankly I needn’t milestones to trigger the internal dialog. According to Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I’m a questioner. I’m in a continued search for meaning. The meaning of my life, as a whole as well as its many parts which I’ve embarked on trying to minimize. I question, looking for internal reasoning for my relationships, work, running, writing, photography, traveling, this old — but new — lifestyle. I often get stuck trying to make sense of all these aspects of life. I ruminate, crafting real or arbitrary meaning, losing sight of my intention to simply live.
Ticking over 48 years hasn’t made me immune to the chatter that bounces around in my skull, but perhaps a maturity has come that allows me to accept this is my nature. Accept the questioning. Allow the seeking of usefulness in all I do. And when I can not connect meaningful dots and the depressive relapses occur, allow them and accept they will pass. Without the very search for meaning, I surmise my life would have no meaning. The rumination, deliberation, and questioning is my downfall — my weakness. But these things are as well my strengths. My passion lies in solving and creating. Without questions there is little to solve. Without a seeking for the meaningful, there is little for me to create.
Deeply implanted within the seeking lies the hope that my life will make a difference, will have an impact on this world. At the root of all the questioning is the desire to touch others, to connect with others, in a introverted reclusive way that honors how I am made. Is this fantasy? Is it a pipe-dream to expect that my work and life could incite courage, passion, and vitality in others, as an effect of arousing that within myself? Does one, do I, need faith in such a fantasy to be content in this world? Do I need that conviction in order to be content in the striving required of brave living?
If living is the opposite of dying then it requires continued growth, movement, questioning, becoming — allowing to become. Contentment in dying is allowing decline with little to no resistance or care. Decline is inevitable. Anyone who has passed the 48-year-mark knows of the increased stiffness, aches, and injuries that pester; not necessarily from age but due to time and miles placed on a body well used. While decline is reality, we can meet it with grace and reverence, yet still experience it with our swords drawn and shields lifted. We should respect decline’s effect and finality but create enough resistance and inertia away from its downward slope to force it backward another hour, day, week. With cunning we can find a path beyond decline, adapting, then becoming something different, something new — thus growing, thus living. We can counterbalance the inevitable decline of body and mind with a continued rebirth of passion, with renewed curiosity and consistent creativity. We can choose the descent, earthbound, or we can journey through passageways and footpaths which take us to personally undiscovered precipices.
Hoping to meet you on the summit,