Oct 2, 2011

You're always warm and dry

I am now within a planned unemployment... I am now without work for the first time since I got my paper-route when I was 12. I should revise... I'll be without work-ing for someone else. Over the next three weeks - maybe four, five, ? - I plan on putting in the hardest work of my life. Lots of thinking and something like a hundred lakes by human-power!

I am going on a long trip from home. The adventure of my lifetime. But, yes, I have been away from home for months now. A cabin in the woods is nice... my ultimate goal... but this one is not home. I didn't build it. I got here when there was snow on the ground and there'll'be snow on the ground again before I leave it, but it's not home. It's got almost everything I need and a great location, but this is a temporary hiding spot at best. A good, quiet spot. I sleep here, I read here, I keep spring water in a big jug on my porch, mice intrude and die here, there are maps on the wall of every lake I can paddle to in a week, I think in the dark here, but this is not home. I love this spot, but I have no one to share it with, and so, it's not home.

But I will miss it... Like all my important places, particles of me will always live here - I have just a few more nights under this roof, I should expect no more...

Realizing I may not return to this place again, it hurts, and that's been the theme of this year, leaving home behind. It's been a tough, tough year for me. And I could write a book about the last year, and someday I might, but I can't write that book now and I'm not sure anyone would read it, anyways... We've all felt the pain of leaving home, and it hurts. No fun.

What I want to say... What I want to write about now, is not this year of hurt and regret and an expanding horizon, but of what comes next - for there is certainly a guilty excitement in the reception of a blank slate, no matter how you got it. I don't know what I'll do with it beyond the next month, but I think I know what I'm aiming at. This story, this searching for a philosophy of life, is fueled by the hurt of leaving, yes, but it is centered entirely on the thrilling prospect of finding home again.

Finding the true home.

Tomorrow morning I will embark on the greatest adventure of my life, at age 30, into the wilds of Canada with a paddle and a canoe and two fellow adventurers and some amazing boots. And determination. And nervousness. And regret. And hope. And so many questions, so many questions. Plenty of time to think. And decisions. And optimism, somehow.

I'm not always optimistic but I will do a better job of controlling my perspective going forward, and I think that is what the next month and year and life is about. That is what this story is about. I haven't figured out much of anything this summer, but I realized pretty quickly that my worries and complaints about life were my own problem... Maybe breathing good air helped me see it... Maybe it was the quiet, but I see it, even if I don't believe it all just yet.

Here is how I got on this thinking: I read Sig Olsen's Open Horizons a few weeks ago and in the book he tells a story from his guiding days up in the Quetico. This is where I'm going in two days. The Paddler's Paradise. It seems to me the story occurred in my exact current week the way it struck me. This story happened in the fall, during a spell when the sun never shone and it rained on and off for days and days and days. And it was cold. I listen to the cold rain wake me up in the morning, before the sun, and I shiver in my little cabin and think, how am I gonna handle this weather for a month in a tent (or a hammock!), not another group of humans within six or sixty lakes in any direction?

It was this kind of week when Sig was guiding some guesties into the northern wilds, packing his canoe in the cold rain, when an old-timer guide named Buck Skelton gave him some advice that changed his life, and the advice seems to have changed my course, if not my life entirely. This is what Buck told Sig: Remember, no matter how wet and cold you are, you're always warm and dry.

This Quetico adventure is the test of that philosophy. I know I will be cold, out there, rain on the roof of the tent at night, questions rolling through my mind, snow maybe... I am going on a long trip from home. I have been away from home for months now, and if I never get back home, it won't surprise me... I had to put in an address change today and I do not know where my next home is, but until I find it I will keep looking, everywhere. Maybe the answer will hit me out there, in the wild, or maybe I'll think of a new way to think of home...

But can my mind finally calm the wind? Can conviction still shivers? Will I be honest with myself and accept what I say? Will the quiet be truly quiet?

Where I get stuck is on the idea of control... If it is always warm and dry then you control your environment... Your life... And this is a nice notion, like a warm blanket... ... it's just a matter of wrapping yourself snugly. But it's bullshit, of course, and besides, I like my wild, Wild! I like the unpredictability of this world. Sometimes you are stuck in a storm, you are wet and cold. Sometimes life is terrible, uncontrollable.

And sometimes the forecast surprises you with a string of 70s and sun for your ride into the October north.

No, you can't ignore reality on the bad/good ::: days/weeks/years. But that's not what Buck was talking about. Buck's wild was wild, the rain very real, cold to the bone... but there's a way of knowing the chill can't last, and also, that you can't control so many things... And that's the key I think: Acceptance of now, improving tomorrow.

This is today. This is you. They are they. Here is here. Home is where you are tonight and who you share your dinner with. That's my best guess, and I hope it's a truth I can build my boat with as I look out on the lake and wind... And I will give this boat a vigorous test! So I say, be warm and dry and well.