I was writing to a friend, Slim, from the Continental Divide Trail. We walked, often together, from the Mexican border to Silver City. I'd shared my tedious tome of the walk through the San Juans, and he paid me the compliment of saying that he relived his own memories by reading mine.
Thank Goodness! Way better that his mind is filled with his own mountains than mine.
You might read something almost entirely new to you. But if it entirely alien, it won't be grasped by tendrils of your being. And it did you then no good.
If those tendrils, however, reach and touch it, this new thing...then what a gift: you are on the verge of incorporating a new aspect of your being. For the written word must be mirror as well as object. Only then is there communication. Only then is there relationship.
And it is only by relationship that we learn.
I am a stupid man. I do not learn from books, though I've often said I did. And I am always reading.
But in reality, I cower from the world. I read long enough to feel shame. And then I finally go into the world.
I absorb a tiny bit of it. Then I dart, like a squirrel, back into a private place. Only then can I begin to worry the morsel held in my cheeks.
Then, my reading is not such an error. For because I have added to my being, there are more tendrils within it to reach and touch those alien concepts I previously skipped across, ungrippable in my essence. I now have more "handles," and am usefully waylaid.
I'm not yet saying anything new. However, I see something else. If you write your own experiences, then these themselves are represented outside of you. And in so becoming, they are potentially alien (recognition may be swift, "oh, I wrote that, I remember that," but nonetheless, there is a quick sniff first to see if it is alien), and thereby useful.
To grow we must be pierced. And we can aid in our own puncturing with the creation of artifacts that are both deeply known (because ours) but potentially alien (because now "outside," now "objective").
And here was my new thought (never new, only newly discovered): time itself becomes capacious in this (holy?) work of recording and then re-membering. Because walking your own paths now objectified, now "alienized," your being is stirred in the times of the walk itself.
And such stirring, at depth, escapes time...for What Was becomes What Is. And your being now turns his head to the right on the path, where before he turned it left at the shadow of a wing across the sun.
And he shall see what he missed.
And now time is only our friend. Only perceived as the gift which it is when given us yesterday and tomorrow by our Father. We may emerge above it as the delighted child before the Death Star Playset, through which he has already wandered long in dream.
I was looking through pictures from the San Juans and happened to notice, deep in the image of a vast mountainside preceeded by tilting plain, two tiny pixels of color.
They were my friends! And that moment brought the time of that morning again to life. I found them again only by zooming in, and seeing them for (what it felt to be) the first time. Thereby was our depressing story of time-as-arrow nullified for me. And the death in me was diminished. And the life in me rejoiced.
If it is so with only a photo, then how much more so in the careful build-up of image through the written word? For the plodding of eyes across rows of letters blooms real wildflowers in a real meadow singing even now in the loving gift of your imagination.
Recording your walk is the beginning of your journey of discovery. It is the harvesting. The movements, the sweat and joys do stand on their own, yes. But why leave the field unharvested? We here...we at least do the planting, unlike those who only smile placidly at the peaks from the valleys.
We must grip the scythe, and like men of old, finish our work in the golden autumn of our day.
I write this with the deepest thanks to this community, which, in the years of planting, always had a friendly word for me...admonished me to be safe, resisted my excesses (remember how I wanted a "wiki"?), celebrated my little successes far beyond what I deserved. Y'all here carry out the trinity of reading, writing, and that first most important step: doing. Thank you for the good example.