Archive for January, 2012

Jan 30 2012

Profile Image of Walt

World Weary

Filed under Blog Post

Thanks to my tech savvy wife, I now get my morning news from an electronic device. Now I can read newspapers from any point on the globe, and keep up with the latest developments everywhere. Talk about information overload! I have to limit myself to half an hour of browsing otherwise I’d be at it all day. There’s really no end to the images and words that are available. With a good internet connection, the world is indeed a small place.

Yeah, now I can read about local, national and international events until I am truly sick at heart. Better than sticking my head in the sand and ignoring it all, I suppose. All the same, I can’t help but wonder what good all this information does me.

Am I better off keeping up with the massacres in Africa, the latest court rulings on crumbling nuclear power plants, or the circus that we call the presidential primaries? How much more do I need to know about the lurid sex lives of the rich and powerful, or the horrific crimes committed by supposedly decent folk? I’m partial to scientific surveys, but the one I read tomorrow will contradict the one I read today. Is eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine good for me or not? I know how they taste. That’s all I can say for sure.

I am world weary. 99% of the so-called information I encounter during the course of a day is tainted with propaganda, and quite frankly, I am tired of sorting through it. I call myself a philosopher because I have an insatiable hunger for meaning, but such a desire is meaningless in the Age of Misinformation. Media buzz trumps reality. And the wider the gap grows between the average person and wild nature, the more this becomes true.

A day in the woods provides temporary relief, but a week or two off the grid only makes it harder to come back.  In the summer of ’92, I went into the Alaskan bush hoping to resolve this matter. I haven’t been the same since. I have directly experienced What-is and know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that it vanishes the moment I step out of a wild forest. So now I turn on an electronic device, searching for more information, substituting that for wisdom. Then I get dressed and go to work on a keyboard, either at home or elsewhere, wondering why I feel so empty inside.

I should be happy. I have my health, a great marriage, my literary work, family and friends, and so much more.  But I am weary in a way that Kierkegaard, Nietzsche or any other existentialist would understand all too well. The gap between the wild and the civilized is wide indeed. And the world we live in doesn’t make much sense.


One response so far

Jan 19 2012

Profile Image of Walt

Deep Freeze

Filed under Blog Post

A change in weather over the weekend reminded me that it gets cold here in Vermont – wicked cold. Temps dropped below zero, and my enthusiasm for a long-awaited hike on my day off dropped with it.

I awoke Monday morning to single digits. Warmer, but not warm. So I puttered about the house while the mercury climbed. By late morning it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Hmm… that would have to do. I put on four layers of wools and thermals beneath my shell and went out.

A town forest twenty minutes from home seemed like the place to go. I wasn’t in the mood to drive any farther than that. Commuting to work every day does that to you.

Told Judy before leaving the house that I’d be glad to be in the woods once I was there. That was true but the chill that came when I broke a sweat kept me from lingering. I walked about an hour through the forest, cutting tracks through several inches of fresh snow, then called it quits. Outside just long enough for my beard to ice over. No more.

My dog Matika would have stayed out longer. Tracks of deer, squirrel, field mouse, you name it – there was plenty to sniff. She ran back and forth through the snow like she was born to it. Yeah, she has a heavy winter coat as most long haired German shepherds do.

Had the place all to myself for an hour. That was nice. Enjoyed the way the sun broke through the trees when the clouds opened up, and the way the snow clung to the boughs of conifers when they didn’t. But it was just a tad too cold to reflect upon the wonders of wild nature any more than that.

Fixed cup of hot chocolate as soon as I got home, then thawed out. It wasn’t enough of a hike to blow away all my stinky, mid-winter thoughts, but it would have to do. For now, that is. Next time I have a day off from work and temps rise into the twenties, I’ll go out for a much longer walk.  No doubt Matika will be ready to roll when I do.


Comments Off on Deep Freeze

Jan 10 2012

Profile Image of Walt

The Distant Summit

Filed under Blog Post

Like many people, I am hypersensitive to the march of time whenever a new year begins. We switch out an old calendar for a new one, then try to get used to the novel digit. That’s “12,” not “11,” though some of us will be making this mistake well into February. The clock moves too fast for us.

Seems like the older I get, the busier I become. Not quite sure what that’s all about but I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. A lot of older people I know complain about not having enough time, while many younger folks have enough of it to just “hang out.”

Last weekend my wife Judy and I visited her half brother who is well into his last days. I talk with my parents weekly to stay updated on their ailments. Recently I learned that a friend of mine is confined to a wheelchair. Others have their issues. I can count on one hand the number of friends my age who can hike a whole day with me. I’m getting the message loud and clear but don’t like it. Nothing in our youth-obsessed culture is helping me prepare for the inevitable. “Stay healthy,” the medical professionals advise, and that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, I keep getting older . . . as everyone does.

A couple months back, while I was hiking Wheeler Mountain, I looked over at Mount Pisgah with its sheer cliffs rising dramatically from Lake Willoughby. A couple decades ago, while I was working as a hiking guide, I slowly crept up that mountain with a 75-year-old man while the rest of our group dashed ahead. It took forever but eventually the septuagenarian and I reached the top. I marveled at it. To this day that remains the most inspiring thing I’ve ever witnessed. And I have it in my head to do the same thing and hike that mountain when I turn 75. That is, if I’m still upright and able to do so.

I do not so much fear death as I do the prospect of wasting precious years. I live like a condemned man nowadays. “How can I make best use of the time remaining?” I keep asking myself. Maybe that’s why I’m so busy. There’s no time to waste. My days are numbered. That distant summit isn’t so distant any more.



One response so far