Saturday, December 12, 2009

In From the Storm


If we are honest with ourselves, most of us will have to admit that we live out our lives in an ocean of fear.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

To be awake is to be alive.
Henry David Thoreau

...was talking about how I sometimes feel nostalgic for the most tragic and horrible times in my life....when, for a while, the mind stopped drifting so haphazardly...attention overwhelmed...focused, whether it wanted to be or not, on a gaping and unavoidable pain...every unhappy moment felt so deeply and intensely as to burn with a flame that continues to glow in memory....but this isn’t a story about that...

...went backpacking in the Rockies twenty years or so ago...Indian Peaks Wilderness, near Boulder, with a friend who’d never backpacked before...and probably never did again....we hiked about six miles, mostly up, and were way above treeline when dark storm clouds appeared off above the ridgeline....I thought better get the tent up...which is what we did...this old fashioned pup tent found in my dad’s attic...and managed to clamber in just as the first raindrops started to fall, which seemed to us like perfect timing...though it couldn’t’ve been more than a minute or two before wanton winds coursing across the alpine tundra unearthed flimsy metal tent stakes, bringing thin orange material down on us like a wet cowl....which, as best we could, we held up with arms outstretched like twin Jesuses as the scene through the open flap resembled the Apocalypse as much as anything I’d ever seen...lightning dancing and exploding everywhere, wind raging in countless directions at once, cold rain hammering down....my friend said, at one point, I don’t know if I can deal with this....and I said I don’t think we have much choice...

...not that I wasn’t terrified, too...I was, of course...but also felt a curious exhilaration...crouching in the midst of this all...the insane, spectacular lightning, the wind and rain rampaging at us from all sides...the inescapable knowledge that we could die at any moment, easily...but that, right there, right then, blood was pulsing through us with a ferocity rivaling that of the storm...

...at some point, we decided it'd be a good idea to get away from the useless metal tent poles, and went to crouch by a rock that kinda sorta almost gave us some shelter until the storm passed...which it did, after a while...but by then it was dark, though the moon shone limply through the clouds, and we went back to the tent, found it completely waterlogged, sleeping bags and everything else utterly soaked and cold...and, even if I’d had the backwoods know-how and fortitude to get a fire going, there was no wood up there....then, if I’d had any backwoods know-how at all, we would’ve turned around and run for treeline as soon as we saw those dark clouds....so, with hands numb from the cold, we crammed sleeping bags into backpacks, leaving the tent stuffed between two rocks, where I retrieved it, along with various other items strewn around the area, two days later, and started the long climb down...

...not sure where it came from...except that I shared it with Mittens, our otherwise fearless Welsh Corgi...but I had a phobia about thunderstorms from early on...by my mid-twenties, it was subtle...just a dark cold feeling somewhere inside whenever I heard that ominous rumbling...but very real nonetheless....after that experience in Indian Peaks, though, the fear was gone....my friend Jeff came out to Colorado and we spent much of the rest of that summer backpacking high in the mountains...often setting up camp just below treeline so that, when the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm came, we could go and watch it from close up....and even today, when I get caught on my bike in a storm...which happens at least once a summer, usually somewhere between downtown and home...I try to avoid it, but not always very hard...it can feel like a crisp, unruly baptism...

13 comments:

Brooks Hall said...

Wow! What an exciting story. It sounds like a romance with the elements!

Bob Weisenberg said...

Enjoyed this very much. Your vivid writing makes us feel like we were there.

Bob Weisenberg
YogaDemystified.com

human being said...

"In From the Storm "

i'm sitting in my chair looking at this sentence that has appeared on my blog list... and think of all the storms... and all the "in"s... and find out how closely the world within and without correlate... the way we react to real storms and the storms in our mind... the way we grow through them... the way they give birth to a new us... i feel nostalgic for all my storms... especially i remember the one when a friend and i were in mountains... walking through a cold thick fog... isolated from the whole world... each step was an expedition... a new discovery...
am i again in another storm? and each step...

and i come here... and i read this... and i see how another person goes through another storm... and i feel all storms are one... and all people are one... and all storms are just there so that we fear and calm... so that we get lost and be found...





as always the way you end your beautiful writing is a WOW!

peace and love to you

the walking man said...

The way you feel about the storms is exactly how I felt being at sea in the North Atlantic during weather.

RB said...

I just wrote an essay about a similar thing for Revolving Floor...more about the thrill of being lost...but the essence is that brilliant quote, "every rebel seeks a storm...as if a storm will bring him peace."

But what I like about this essay is the possibility that maybe the storm DOES bring peace...meditation fixes everything...

Winters Reaper said...

simple, wonderful and true....

Eco Yogini said...

fantastic experience. loved it.
weird how that happens- focus...

Lana Gramlich said...

The experience kind of reminds me of Lt. Dan's "making peace with god" scene on the shrimp boat in Forrest Gump.

Laura Hegfield said...

I think this is the best way to release any fear...(well maybe there are a few best left alone) but to be with it, really with the fear...and then it softens and we grow and move on to new scarier mountains and storms and learn how to be with them...or more importantly with ourselves in the midst of them.

A wonderful story, thanks for sharing.
Laura

True Blue Texan said...

Great story! Just stopped by to let you know I fixed the problem with my post and it is now completely legible. Thanks for the heads up.

Kim said...

I love this story and the way you tell it. Sometimes getting caught in the storm is amazing.

Melinda said...

Oh my, Jay! I absolutely loved this vivid description,

"we held up with arms outstretched like twin Jesuses as the scene through the open flap resembled the Apocalypse as much as anything I’d ever seen!"

There's something very exhilerating about being confronted with the worst of nature. This has happened to me a few times--most profoundly when I was driving a taxi in Montana and agreed to drive a guy up the canyon when a TERRIBLE blizzard hit. I thought I would lose my life--I really did because I could not see at all. When I cam through that, I felt more alive than I'd felt for some time.

I really loved reading this story--beautifully written and just vivid!

Melinda

earthtoholly said...

Wow, what an absorbing account of your adventure, drjay. I guess it takes being right in the middle of a situation to help quash a fear of it. Which means I should just get on a damn plane...

On a purely selfish note, when I read, "...and went to crouch by a rock that kinda sorta almost gave us some shelter until the storm passed...," I cried a bit, because out back of my parents' home there's a hillside of rock, and I remember my dad saying that if a tornado ever came through the valley they'd head out to that hillside until it passed. And, for a moment, I selfishly wanted him here, even if it meant he had to run for his life.