"The Station" that I posted this past Monday was recited to my group the last morning our the back country ski course was out in the field. We sat perched on our packs with broken down sleds, sun burnt faces + greasy hair, waiting for the NOLS vans to pick us up at the road. I listened quietly, and then, surprised to know the last paragraph : "It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today. So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less.", I joined in and recited in my head.
I had used these few lines on my senior page of my High School Yearbook. A page on which I spent a year taking photos (something I hate) for just the right ones (sorry mom). A page for which I painstakingly drew a flower border over and over again until my vines were just so. And a page on which I poured over quotations, trying to make sure I was using the exact words that I wanted to represent me...forever. Obviously all of this seems silly in hindsight. My senior yearbook is in storage collecting dust somewhere. But for as much as I've grown since that day, I look back on the words I chose many moons ago, and still love every syllable of the two quotes (this + Dave Matthews :: "Turns out not where but who you're with that really matters").
And what's more crazy to me is that as I listened to the first three quarters of Robert Hastings' "The Station," thinking it was new to me, I thought, "yes, this is half of why I'm here." I like to tell myself, "The journey is the thing." I think a lot of us do. And to some degree I can watch this play out practically and believe it. I love long car rides with great music. When I hop in my front seat and press down the gas petal my first thought isn't always, "What time will I arrive ?" On beautiful days with good company it's, "What music should we listen to first ?" And, "What car snacks will make this trip yummier ? Is this an AC or windows day ?" I love stopping at convenient stores for candy, and if I'm with my older sister, looking for a Whole Foods that's anywhere within a 15 mile radius of our route (we're pretty die hard, it's sort of weird). But on the flip side, and the more important side, in the game of life I often have trouble convincing myself that the journey is the thing. I watch those around me, as I think we all do, and how their lives move at a different pace and diverge in different directions and think, "Should I be doing what they are doing ? Is it wrong my life hasn't taken that turn ? Will I never have some of these things if I don't have them now ?" And panic sets in. "What does it mean if I don't have a career right now ? If I'm not married with a child and I don't own a house ?" I mean, just this year I learned how to love an hour and a half yoga class instead of looking desperately for a clock and my phone and springing out of shavasana to leave.
And then I listen to Robert Hastings' words. If its not a career it's a marriage. If it's not a marriage, it's a house, or an unpaid loan. A child, a promotion, a shiny car. We will always push ourselves, we are never satisfied. We rarely think (even when it's true) :: "Today I am exactly where I want to be, at this minute, and I'm going to soak up the seconds that tick away."
So here I was having spent 10 days skiing around the Snake River Range of Wyoming with a 50 pound sled attached to my hips, a 20 pound pack on my back, with 19 year olds I'd never met prior, digging out snow shelters, learning about avalanches, ripping sticky skins on and off my skis, boiling snow to drink, falling through the snow up to my hips, peeing in the woods--or worse--in a yogurt container in the middle of the night, and in the end I was in the exact spot I had started. We were being picked up by white 13 passenger vans, exactly where they had dropped us off. Everything was exactly the same except we were a little dirtier, a little more knowledgeable (the first day I actually tried to tuck the lining of my ski pants INto my boots + often needed help getting my boots in the bindings), had a little less food, and it was March instead of February. Having done a tiny 14 day NOLS wasn't going on my resume, or pushing me closer to ticking off any life achievement box. Instead it was just a simple two weeks that would stand alone and have been.
So "Why" is the question I got asked a lot both before and after. At first I'd laugh it off, sort of unsure of why I took it on. I knew one piece, which I've mentioned on here before, was the need for a a challenge on my calendar. I was scared of the cold, scared of downhill + speed, and by the time the date had approached I was scared of needing to add butter, chocolate + nuts to all 15 meals I'd need to eat a day, and scared of the sun giving me dreaded sun bumps. All of this = appropriate challenge, check. In this, was proving to myself I could do it. I didn't want to be someone who always said things sounded cool, but only watched from afar. So there was a big piece... but "The Station" hit the nail on the head for the other piece, and how funny that some of the words were ones I knew so well.
For the first time in a long time all of my thoughts were present in each activity. When getting in or out of bed is a 15 step process, and your snow cave opening is only big enough for a single file exit, or when your heart is beating and you are sweating, and after each hill you climb you see another, your head lives there. When you have breathtaking views, and snow fire pits (who knew !), and your bag of m+ms is an appropriate addition to your breakfast you live there. You appreciate little moments. You enjoy people whose worlds are very far from yours. I climbed more mountains, ate more ice cream (M+Ms really), I watched more sunsets, I laughed more and I didn't cry (which my sister could hardly believe). If anything, it only made me want more.
I'm trying to integrate this presentness into life not on a mountainside. I'm confident I'll get there, but it might require more mountsides in my life.
*I started this over the weekend and intended it for Monday, but I just couldnt finish ! It is still not done, but I've abandoned ship for too long, It is what it is for now . . .