Desolation

Once, I left my camp on a huge ice cap at 2 in the morning. This was in the arctic and the sun was still up, low, but up. Everything was shrouded in thin fog. Thin enough that you could look up and see pale blue but in all other directions there was only whiteness. I skied out in a random direction just until camp disappeared behind me in the fog. It was maybe 0 degrees F and I only had to ski about half a mile. I wanted to know what it was like to be in that kind of desolation. Where there was nothing for you in sight. I wanted help in my imagining of what it would feel like to be lost out there, or not lost, but with more distance to cover than energy to do so. Of course, having ski tracks to follow back to the tent, back to a warm sleeping bag and back to the rest of my life made the image incomplete. But it was worth getting a sense of.

Today afforded that same opportunity. Thick fog on the water and quickly fading light with only a rough shoreline to follow. Like holding a handline in a blizzard, or a blind person following a wall with their white cane. To venture away from land would mean venturing into a guideless wilderness. It would mean being disoriented and with no ski tracks to follow. Only the spreading wake of my boat as it slowly arced in circles following the errors in my internal directional senses. But maybe there was something. Maybe detaching from that land would lead me to a place of clear skies where I could watch the sun set beind the banks and feel the current pull me slowly out to sea in its ebb?

Rethinking this, it’s really more about wilderness. That all you have to do is ski out a few hundred meters, kayak away from the shore a little bit, or walk into your nearest ghetto. Challenge your sense of safety in places that may or may not be dangerous. This is something that’s always available to you and is guaranteed to make you feel more alive.

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