I’m not sure if ya’ll’ve heard, but at some point in the next fifty years, the Pacific Northwest will experience an earthquake whose magnitude can only be described in multiple expletives (and also the seismic richter scale number 9.6). From Vancouver and Victoria, Seattle to Salem to San Francisco, geologists predict tsunamis that takes out the entire coast, rockslides covering roads and towns, and the impending eruption of the Cascadian volcanoes. In short, unless Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise suddenly use their fictional powers for good, 40,000 of us west coast dwellers are facing death or injury in the initial hours, another 1 million displaced, 2.5 million in need of food and water.
As a member of the “best coast” demographic and in my current physical location, I am poised to crumble along with this bluff and the family-of-four next door right down into Puget Sound.
Life in the wake of my thru-hike has improved since my last post. I’ve found myself surrounded by the most phenomenal community of people–friends giving and thoughtful in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I never dreamed I had such love around me here, in the city which still feels somewhat foreign. Gratitude is incredibly humbling.
I’ve also kept in contact with several hikers–ones I never thought I’d see again. Someone I knew for an afternoon on Fuller Ridge or another for a windy lunch atop Baden-Powell or someone I saw only once every month or so in the most unexpected places, and that’s been strengthening and uplifting.
Still, I’ve struggled in facing some of the regrets about how I hiked the PCT. I wish I would’ve taken more time–not just longer days and lower mileage–taken more time for people. I wish I would’ve gone into Julian for free pie. I wish I would’ve left my cell phone packed inside a box in my friend’s basement in Seattle. I wish I’d been more ok with not being ok all the time. I wish I would’ve packed out a whole jar of vanilla frosting in Trout Lake. And there was a while wherein I wasn’t hiking my own hike, and I regret that most of all.
As much as the intro to this blog post may seem to the contrary, I’m not pulling the old Glenn Beck fearmongering card. Quite the opposite, in fact. Being always afraid of death or injury, and preemptively mitigating for failure or rejection is no way to live.
One of the many hundreds of things I learned on that 12″ swath of dirt trail last summer (and the 5″ between my own ears) is that the present moment is the most important.
I’m struck on a daily basis, in the small moments–in rinsing shampoo from my hair or tying up my running shoes or shaping round loaves of rye bread in the dark hours of the morning, by how often I’m living somewhere else; existing in some counter-factual history of my own past, a fictional land of the future, or in the meaningless validation of social media.
I’m not one who generally makes New Years’ Resolutions. I tend to find them trite and easily cast aside or forgotten. But this year, this year I’m jumping on the Gregorian bandwagon.
The first PCT thruhiker I ever met has a tattoo–I can’t recall what it looks like, but I remember asking him its meaning, to which he answered “to live with fire.”
And as Shaman Piney, a fellow thruhiker and Michigander I met early on in SoCal, likes to say “Love NOW!” There’s no better time–no more important time than right now.
I want to love now and to love better. I want to live with a fire. I want to fill my life with only the things and the relationships that add value, and to find the value in whatever I’m doing. I want to be present in my interactions with others. I want to be less busy. I want to say “yes” to more things because as Jack Kerouac wrote “In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
You too, reader. Run that extra half-mile. Go on that spur-of-the-moment afternoon trip to the lake. Throw away the kitsch materials you don’t need. Kiss that person you like. Hand-write your friend a letter. Tell the people you care about how you feel about them.
Afterall, we really could actually die tomorrow.