I am back on the Bluffs. As long as Mom remains relatively well, and before the snow brings sure, icy death to these sheer cliffs, this has become my place of refuge, much like my own private Narnia on the borderlands of Calgary.
I am here because of John Keats: The poetry of the Earth is never gone.
It is true. Every day in this place there is a new wonder. Every day the light is changed. Every day there are surprising, silent words to wrap themselves around my battered soul, to bid my heart pump one more time. Every day I am reminded that even in the madness of my mind, there will eventually emerge peace.
I am here because of Winston Churchill: If you’re going through Hell, keep going.
This too is true. Literally walking through a valley over which the shadow of death looms is not for the faint of heart. When I planned to help my mom and my dad in this way, I knew. I knew that this road would test me as I have never been tested.
But I am here on this particular day because of John Muir: And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
While Muir’s words are really about leaving behind the day to day fears, the worries, the cares, and the plans, I heave, I lurch these days toward a far less pastoral reading of his text.
I am losing my mind – not always, and certainly not every minute of every day. But there are many moments in many days when I fear that I have already set it down in a place where I might not find it again. It has lately had flights careening out of control. Every day brings completely unbidden a wild, frenzied dance of thoughts and things, a bacchanal only dreamed of in opium sleep. It comes. It goes. I am at peace. I am at war. I am at peace again. Opium sleep? Maybe.
If only, I think, bitter in this moment. If only I knew what an opium sleep could be. Maybe I’ll buy some gummies. This is the Okanagan, after all. We’ll see. Maybe. Yes.
I exercise like a man possessed. I meditate. I pray. I call out to an as yet silent god from the highest heights on the upper reaches of this valley.
In the implacable silence I laugh – a dry, soulless, hacking sob, wrenched from a parched heart. Far above me, an eagle drifts on languid air, utterly unmoved, perhaps unimpressed by the arrogance of my cry.
Today in my solitude I behave as if I actually deserve solace, as if I have earned it, as if I should not feel such pains as are common to us all.
I have forgotten entirely about humility. It is foreign to me on this sun-drenched mountainside where I weep. Again.
How did I come to be here? Why? I knew it would be hard but, why? The daily walk is tearing at that which holds me together, slitting thread by thread the fabric of which I am made.
But I walk, resolute in my dedication to take one more step after the last, to go up until there is no more up. I sweat. I curse. I pause, one boot in mid air, the other clinging to the rock. I realize that I have cursed more in the past two years than in all of my other years combined.
On this day, I am undone. There is nothing I can do. There is no control I can wrest from the heavens. So I walk and I breathe. In the coming tomorrows I will do this again, and again, and yet again.