~ North Table Mountain, Golden Colorado
I recently decided to put the topic of this next post to the people who read this blog. After taking a vote in a few online groups/forums and such, the winner with the most votes was “an anecdote from my travels”. So here we go.
As I discussed in the blog entry “Realization of Mortality” at a certain point in my life I had hit an existential crises, dealing namely with the thought of the unalterable fact I would die, and could die anytime that I’m alive. It made me start questioning what death was, what dying was. And of course, questions about what I should spend my time doing.
Well, part of this crises ended with an ever growing amount of stress. You could say the circumstances of my life had convalesced in a way that made this stress nearly unavoidable. I had not learned to implement most of the standard self-administrations I would learn later in life, and having no escape valve, eventually decided to stop working and ‘walk across the country’. I can’t credit a lone factor with all of the force behind the decision. Truth be told it didn’t feel like a decision at all, anymore than pulling your hand out of a fire is a decision.
My time spent traveling had many sub-plots and mishaps, but I feel that the ‘climax‘ was when my two traveling companions (Pope Boz and Mila) at the time and I had climbed up on what I am fairly certain is called “North Table Mountain” after having eaten our share of some mushrooms of unknown kind, procured in our mysterious ways. Three companions if you count my dog, Tiggle (he came named).
[ The following account is the best remembered version of my ‘phenomenological’ experience]
It was a hot day, I remember distinctly feeling as if some great pressure were pushing down upon me. This force was the intensity of the heat and sun and dust. When we had been down in the little town, it had been hot but it had been familiar. The trees were ‘normal’, the grass was ‘normal’ in the town. Boz had a friend who lived in the area, and his friend had driven us from Boulder to Golden, with the intent to show us “The Mesa”.
We drove through a picturesque American town, where other than the mountains in the distance and perhaps the color of the dirt were the only things that really reminded me I was in a place far from my native New England. The same stores dotted the sides of the road. The same looking people walked on the sidewalks. The normality of it would only later come to mind, after I had left the Mesa.
We drove through a small community of nice houses and lawn ornaments. After winding left and right through the thin streets we came to a dirt road and our host pulled over and let us out. We engaged in the common ritual of removing the tetris-like piled traveling packs out of the trunk, disentangling the straps and ropes that hung loose on the outside of the backpacks.
A light rain had been falling and stopping, falling and stopping. Our host had asked us if we were sure we wanted to camp on the Mesa, and offered to let us stay under his roof for a night. We declined appreciatively; living outside in the rain had become just another part of our lives and we had the equipment to protect ourselves from it. I wasn’t worried. It wouldn’t occur until later to me that we were in a desert climate, and the rain was a precursor for what was to come.
We bid farewell to our guest, and left the neighborhood behind and below us; the dirt path beyond it rose steadily upwards and towards the top of the Mesa. Our feet kicked up red-tinted dirt and subsequently dust, which stuck to our clothes and sweat lightly. I was thankful for the water we had procured before the ascent. The path grew steeper and steeper, and more riddled with stones and gravel that would kick out from underneath our soles without warning. Tiggle was the only one who didn’t seem to have a problem with it, and with his chest-harness equipped he even managed to pull me up somewhat.
Eventually, after coming to a plateau in the trail we set our bags down to take a rest and re-up on some hydration. We still had a ways to go, and I had an idea.
“Why don’t we eat them now, and then walk the rest of the way while we come up?” I had suggested. Boz didn’t seem convinced this was the best idea (it probably wasn’t) but he, Mila and I did a short sort of ceremony, with themes of a fungal nature. Mila drew symbols on our foreheads with water mixed into the red dirt. We divided up the mushrooms and consumed our portion, and continued our advance.
~ A photo taken after reaching the top of the Mesa, before the ceremony
After the brief rest and ceremony, we continued down the path which was now thankfully flat. Or mostly flat. The sun was still shining, but our rise in altitude (mesas being shelf mountains) didn’t seem to affect it much. If anything I noticed a stronger breeze. But there was no place with shade in sight, and we decided to try to find something to shelter under. While we walked, the large bump in the Mesa’s top obscuring our vision of what lay ahead, it suddenly struck me; Nothing Alive Around Us I Had Ever Seen Before. The dirt had gone from a lightly mixed red into heavy brown earth to mostly dusty, almost brickish red. The grass was primeval, there were cacti dotting the brush. Even the insects around us seemed bigger, different, and more primeval. They were of no species I had ever seen.
Caught up in these sights, I walked into a small, grass-like plant and felt sharp pricks of pain lance up my thigh.
“Fuck!” I cursed and looked down at the plant. It reminded me of my fathers spider-plant that was around when I was growing up, except for the pointed tips of the leaves were sharp, and hard. This was not a soft place. Red rocks jutted out of the ground in the distance, like old rusted bones. Everything was completely Alien.
After we reached the small hill, we saw to our delight a trio of scrubby looking trees not too far away. They would serve as the perfect place to tie up our tarps and to make a giant, ramshackle tent to keep us out of the sun. I felt great, as I pulled ropes out from my pack and unrolled tarps. The heat was no longer felt; or if it was felt, it was delighted in, sucked up by my body like water into a dry sponge. Underneath the trees, were large itchy grasses, which we flattened to the sides and laid another tarp for the floor. Mila and I had sat upon this tarp while Boz walked closely around the campsite. This was when the winged ants came.
Out of the ground, and out of the grass we had moved aside, large, fat, ant-looking insects with wings crawled up and over onto the tarp and our seated legs. Boz took notice.
“Shit, ants are all over you.” He said, and it was true. But I didn’t panic, and even though I realized I was covered in little lifeforms, it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
“They’re nice.” Mila said. I nodded and agreed.
“Fuck that.” Boz said, backing away.
“Join us Boz!” Me and Mila joked, our arms covered in the ‘flying ants’. Eventually they would fall off and we would toss them into the adjacent grasses. I was feeling amazing. Powerful. Free.
Boz suggested that we should explore, and Mila and I (post-ants) had risen to join him. We walked through the red alien landscape, and I felt as if I had left this planet entirely. It was about this time we all sort of wandered off slightly, into our own little worlds; we splintered from the main branch of the world, even between ourselves.
But one thing suddenly hit me, more important than anything in the universe, alien or domestic. I had to piss. Badly. I said something in airy, light, too-weak-and-soft-to-really-be-speech-holy-shit-I’m-making-monkey-noises-talk, excused myself and tried to find someplace to urinate in this other dimension. When I looked out into the distance, the landscape would look both sharply in focus and horribly distorted, one after another. I have horrible vision, and my eyesight was actually improving past normal, only to get worse. I decided to ignore this shifting background, but realized I couldn’t see if someone was also on the Mesa, and didn’t want cops called by some yokel because I was caught pissing in the middle of no-where.
So I laid beside a red-rock that stuck a few feet into the air and pissed beside it. I saw my body, I saw the act of urination. I was some sort of rodent, animal, primate thing, lost in a hard, sharp world. The sun shone like a beacon. My skin looked saggy, and porous. I could almost see the moisture being sucked out of me by the dry environment around me; the desert was greedy for moisture.
I finished up and met back up with the others. Tiggle ran around us, unleashed and loyal, never straying more than fifteen feet away from any of us. Boz and Mila were watching some diving and soaring, screeching bird. It was warning us. We thought maybe it was angry with us. It was around then that I looked into the sky and realized I could see the sides of clouds. That was how high up we were. I saw how clouds have a flat bottom, and soar around on unseen pressures. I was lost in the clouds, when suddenly I look directly above me, into the stark blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.
Above me, who knows how many hundreds of feet, was a giant Eye made out of cloud. It was shaped like an eye, pinched down at the sides, white and perfect on the outside. It had a dark grey iris, and a deep, voidlike pupil. It was staring directly into me.
“Boz.” I said weakly. “Do you see that?” I asked him. He looked up.
“It’s an eye.” He said. We both saw it and stood in awe.
(Didn’t realize how long this story was! I will complete the second half soon and release! Stay tuned! ~ Seth Moris)