25 July 2009

A Little Back-to-the-Earth Bullshit Will Do You No Harm

I went on an extended camping trip from 1969 to 1973 courtesy of the United States Army, as they say. I was 22 years old when I went in and 26 years old when I got out. Infantry officer. Airborne. Ranger. The whole catastrophe. Over and over I said to myself that if I ever got out of that camping trip, I was never going to camp again for the rest of my life. That is pretty much how I have governed myself with regard to camping ever since until this little journey.

As with so many other of my youthful decisions, that one was a mistake.

The essential purpose of everything that makes our modern houses what they are is to remove us and isolate us and protect us from our surroundings. If one lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant or the South Side, that is probably a very good idea.

And if you are happy living in an air-conditioned nightmare, my blessings upon you.

But what if you are prone to sadness and find yourself in surroundings that are unspoiled and inhabited by very few other human beings? I have come to fervently believe that you need to get out of the house and go sleep on the ground. Not every night. But some nights.

The high desert is a perfect place to do that. There is something about sleeping on the ground in a light tent in the high desert that is surprisingly refreshing. I paused for a long time before typing that word “refreshing.” It is not quite the right word, but it will have to do for now. "Rejuvenating" is maybe a better word.

When you have slept on the ground in a light tent in the high desert and then awaken in the morning, sit up, unzip the flap, and look out over it all while the sun comes up, you feel life differently. You experience being alive as a more relevant thing and as an extension of all that is around you.

The knowledge that you will one day return to the dust that holds the roots of the plants that nourish the animals becomes very immediate and profound. But it is also perfectly comforting because it is so obviously the way things ought to be as well as will be. I believe that all of that soaks into you as you sleep on the ground in the night.

God, I love waking up on the ground in the high desert as I have done for the past three mornings. The photo immediately above was taken as I sat on my ass on the ground at the open flaps of my little tent looking out "the front door."

I had no idea when I was making my escape from Iowa that I was looking for anything. All I wanted to do was get the fuck out of there. To have found this without even having looked for it makes it one of the purest gifts that I have ever received.

In fact the purity of the gift is astonishing.

I am back down in town now and would like credit for writing this entry without once using the phrase “mother earth,” which I know would have gagged you.


Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your writings, Steve.


Barb said...

Great posts and photos, Steve. I'm thinking about sending a link to your blog to my brother, Bruce. Remember him? He's been hiking the Appalachian Trail by himself for the past few years. I have photos of his views outside his tent when he wakes up in the morning. I think he would relate to this. Is that OK?

Señor Steve said...

You are kind as always, Mike.

Of course that's okay, but thank you for asking, Barb. There are those whom I would prefer not to see here. And I certainly do remember Bruce. We corresponded for a time years and years ago.