Friday, July 02, 2010

Better run, run, run, run, run to me

Unnamed field to Sky Camp, California
7.2 miles

Bark of eucalyptus

All I wanted to do all along as I hiked on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails was sit down in the middle of the woods and write, and on this trip I am able to, because I’m hiking less than eight miles a day. It feels so astonishingly easy, like I have all the time in the world to dawdle, to take off my shoes and lounge around streams. Part of me wants to hike twenty miles a day, to keep pushing through, just because of the endorphins, because pushing myself harder makes me feel like what I’m doing is real and will go on forever.

I’m sick and tired of having my emotions tied to things that don’t matter. Things like my photographs. I did get picked up by my dad on Wednesday and spent the day with my family, even going horseback riding with Sophia and then back to the house my parents rented for showers and an amazing lunch of barbecued pork chops and baked potatoes. Definitely helping with my calorie deficit. I also tried to upload my posts and photographs there, and discovered that they had all, every last one, been deleted. I’ve been taking a ton of pictures over the last week, including ones of the wedding, and it felt like a devastating emotional blow.

I know that they’re just pictures, and it shouldn’t matter, but it does. My family was compassionate, but I don’t think they could understand how I felt. The only solution is just to be happier, but it feels like any creative impulse I manage to cherish gets destroyed. I eventually found a piece of software that can recover them, but it costs $40. Are my pictures worth that? Is my creativity?

I’m scraping the bottom of my bank account as it is for this little adventure, taking two months away from my paycheck for the sake of some freedom this summer. It’s hard for me to trust myself when I have such a hard time spending money on the things that are important to me, when I can’t even value financially the things that I know are vital to my survival as an artist. “She’s an artist,” Bob Dylan said. “She don’t look back.” But I can’t help looking over my shoulder.

My emotions, my work, my life are my own and belong to no one else. Only I can take control of them. That’s what makes it so crucial, so dangerous, so frightening. If I fail at what I most want, I have only myself to blame. And maybe defective technology. But even that I can blame on myself—my camera’s been acting up for more than a year now. But how can I take that money and spend it on myself, on these little things that don’t even seem important?

I want to be focusing on nature right now, not on my own confusion. The thing is: nature is a lot less sexy close up. Disgusting yellow slugs, oozing goo, fist-sized, were clustered around my watering hole this morning. Bugs and ticks and spiders and grass that looks beautiful but when I flop down on it fills my clothes and shoes and socks with spikes that dig into me for the rest of the day. Even the sun and the wind. The sun is hot, and the wind is relentless along the coast in the afternoons.

I don’t regret anything. I can’t. The reason I want to continue hiking, continue even thru-hiking, continue adventuring, is because of these challenges. It's like one of those stock-market charts. Ordinary life, the life when I’m wrestling with inanity, is static. The line on my chart hovers near zero. I’d rather have these excruciating, wrenching doubts, these turbulent emotions, these fears, this discomfort, because the highs are so very high. It’s so easy to forget that about the trail. I remember the times when I am able to float up near the stratosphere, and forget about the moments when my body is filled with so much pain that I can't take another step.

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