Into the Wild speaks to me loudly.
Ah, the majestic lines of Mount Everest.
As humans we suffer from the inability to always think freely. Sometimes, names and places and what “everyone else” is doing just seems too great and we too, find ourselves walking over a statue at Angkor Wat.
With our free will comes the unique ability to decide what is great in the world we live in. What is worth our time. What invigoates and changes and transforms us into the beautiful creatures we have the potential to be.
Too often do we opt to go for what we heard was the best or the biggest or the most beautiful without taking a minute to decide for ourselves.
We live on a rapidly transforming planet that will never be the same again. With 7 billion people comes great responsibility. Mount Everest cannot be sought simply because one has the money to do it. With what natural and ancient wonders we have left, we individually must see beauty and the awesome everywhere.
We have little choice left.
To hike mindfully in the woods at the end of the city can be just as invigorating as the tallest mountain on Earth.
Anything is for you. This is your world (our) world.
Live in it wisely.
Enjoy and please share this essay on the overcrowding of Everest among other things. An essay is the best way to start (or end) your day. Don’t count them out, especially one’s written for fun alone.
Read the essay here.
Thank you for your support!
Where will you find happiness?
Break the rules.
It is necessary. Somewhere out there is a “No trespassing” sign with your name on it or a wall to spray paint or a boss to not listen to or a train to hop.
There is a freedom on the edge, but there is also a clarity. Out on the edge we know where we stand and who we are. We define, for ourselves, in that moment what is right or wrong.
How else can we do it?
We can choose to be limited and safe or suffer the consequences of trying something new.
A new way of thinking is always on the cusp of erupting.
If everyone did it would you? If everyone did it, that would be a movement, then you’d have to do something different.
Read, share and support this independent essay and let me know what you think. Long-form writing is not dead and ideas are worth spreading. Support independent journalism and enjoy it.
You can read the essay here.
The photo set is an homage to trail-running. It is not breaking any rules, but the spirit of taking off with nothing but shoes is one way to come close to the edge of understanding.The final photo is of Andrew Forsthoefel. He was recently featured on This American Life and he was the catalyst for this essay.
I woke up with no voice, so of course it’s a good idea to record.
A Momentary Reflection (For Kevin)
Some things are meant to change. Actually, all things are meant to change. By the very nature of time, everything is in constant fluid movement until it stops moving. The paradox is that we are not around to see it stop changing. It ends and we are…
Traveling is not transporting your life somewhere new. It is living your life in a completely new way, in a completely new place. It is bringing only what you need and seeing only what is already there.
What is natural and what it is.
Traveling is also about eating alot of food.
The following article is a piece I wrote for Policy Mic. It is an essay about the power of human spirit and sheer will. The reason why we cannot turn away from obsactacles and the reasons why we will always be exsistential.
Enjoy and share.
Especially hikers. Because the mountain is there, that is why we hike.
The open road called. It was not a road in the sense of open stretches of highway, but rather the opening of the mind to see the road. It was everywhere around me, all at once. Each choice was an opening to a path that I had never seen before. The dust and dirt and the flowers and trees and the birds chirping and the cars rumbling and the people talking all showed me something new and different.
Nothing could be wrong.
It was completely open. Complete freedom. Each choice was a universe opening up in itself to a whole new string of human possibility. In my palms I gave the world a new direction. I alone controlled our fate.
The open road has curves and twists and nothing that lies ahead is known.
But each choice opens it. The mind is as free as it ever will be. Black or milk? Toasted or not? Left or right? Alone? Call her back.
The open road. The spirit cannot be fit into a bottle, I think. Don’t make a bottle. I will shatter the bottle and let free a hurricane upon this empty lane or bustling subway. The winds of change or a dimensional shift is chosen by me and me alone.
The open road. I’m hitting the open road.
But, it changes you.
Deeper and deeper the trail leads into the woods until you hit that point. I’ve hit it. I’m on top of the mountain and it is 2pm. 851 meters above the ground. Backtracking will make my journey short and unfulfilled, while going forward leads me to tough decisions; the place where I can never go back. Only onward.
At the base of the mountain I choose to go onto Seonamsa and try my luck with the city bus, unsure of language or time; it is too long gone to return from where I came. The sun sets.
It is only me and the open road.
A bird spiraled down slowly, descending upon the ground.
It did not move as I got closer.
Up ahead, it seemed to notice something I did not,
and upon closer inspection
I noticed a small spring of water bubbling up
Breaking through the leaves
Forming a pool
To quench the thirst of the bird
Who looked back at me, refreshed
And flew away as I too knelt down to drink
This time was colder than I expected.
I had no way to see it coming. Standing at the base of the mountain it is hard to tell how cold it will be at the top. Surrounded by trees, it is impossible to see the peak and I know I will not see it until I am standing at it’s base.
In the trees, water cascades down the worn trail. Soaking my shoes. Letting winter off like a heavy burden that is finally over. Melting away in streams, running from the mountain.
As I emerge from the trees, the winds bite and all I can hear is my pulse thumping in my head. Ice clings to the rock and I know it will be a hard journey up from this point on. The winds howls louder as if warning me to stay in the trees. This is no place for the living. Desolent. Lonely. Cold.
And for that, it invites something it is missing. The first signs of spring never come easily.
A final thought on the day before I go to sleep, I am very drowsy and my legs have that good tired ache to them:
I remember a particular tree very well that had a large square of bark hanging off of it like a scrape or a scar or a fresh wound. It was while looking at this scrape that I caught a glimpse of a small bird at the base of the tree, inside a crook formed from the roots intertwining before they sank into the ground.
The last bits of snow were clinging to the spongy pine needles and dead leaves that formed the forest floor.
The bird held a worm who was slowly turning in it’s beak as if it had no idea it was about to die; as if being held in a beak was as natural as wiggling under a moist rock or inside a hole in the soil.
It was this moment of complete surrender or perhaps disregard for life or death that caught my eye. The moment itself, not the scene; does that make sense?
As the worm started to curl up towards the beak as if to plant a final kiss, the bird devoured him. Quickly and without mercy.
The Black Capped Chickadee hopped twice on the ground and then flew away. Satisfied.
I watched the sun cascade in trails through the bare branches making lines on the ground, then I too bounced on my feet twice and continued down the path that lay before me.
The summer soundtrack was always Eric Clapton’s unplugged on side A and Shawn Colvin on side B. We would play the taped disc while winding our way through the back highways running parallel to 95 northward. Non-stop flipping of that cassette. I still know every nuance of those albums, right down to the song where Eric messes up in the intro and mumbles “ranaranarana” to laughter and applause.
That and NPR will always be my memories of summer. My dad shushing everyone in the car and turning up the droning monotone of those familiar NPR voices. Almost mumbling in a chant about the most obscure topics.
My family used to take these long hikes each summer. I suppose looking back they weren’t that long, maybe 1,000 feet or so up some mountains in Maine. They used to put me and my sister into the car and take us out into the woods just to hike.
To sweat, to feel the bite of the mosquitos, to have to wait until we got home to poop.
Every summer consisted of these hikes. Both my mom and dad are teachers, so our Junes, Julys and Augusts were spent up in the woods in Maine. On a lake in a small cabin. No electricity, no plumbing.
My sister especially hated these hikes. She would drag her feet and pout and complain; to a comedic level. Over the top. She would sigh and sit on rocks. She would kick things and refuse to go on. Even the summers of her back surgery, there we were trooping up the mountain, Amy grumbling in her full body brace.
I remember in those young years it was like a chore. Sure the view was nice, but everything else really sucked. The sweating, Amy’s incessant and melodramatic complaining. It took us forever. By the time we were actually ascending the mountain we were usually spaced out considerably. Like we didn’t even come to the mountain together.
I would usually go fast up ahead, as if by running the mountain as fast as I could, I would lessen the pain of the journey. I would just blink through the hard part. I was also very self-conscious about some weight in those years that seemed to spring suddenly upon me in fourth grade. Hiking the mountain was torture, but it would also make me formidable for all the ladies back in Rhode Island. I knew it was necessary, so I would keep a steady place, rest while everyone was behind and not able to see me, before continuing on.
Amy would be in the back. Grumbling, body cast keeping her erect. She would have my parents fighting over who would stay behind with her and push her up the hill. Who would listen to Amy. Who would push her like a boulder up the mountain like Sisyphus, knowing she would come back down before the end of the day.
By the time we neared the crest of the mountains, we were always just breathing and spaced out; my parents tired of pushing Amy, Amy livid with the seemingly pointless and ludicrous task of hiking a mountain and being outside and myself, hoping that I would emerge from the hike flab-less.
But then we would be on the top and it would all be worth it. Everytime, never fail. The accomplishment was always instantly worth it. Except maybe for Amy. Our family would convene at the top. Still not saying much, but there was never a need to talk too much on a mountain. We would just look and now and again point out landmarks we knew.
"There’s the road."
"Our camps just behind that hill."
Orientation never gets old and since man started to map his surroundings we always have wanted to know where we are. Maybe its the conquistador in all of us. Indeed, I would often have imaginary games with myself, that I was a union army scout (I was obsessed with the Civil War) picking off confederates and natives who were threatening the advance of Lincoln’s army.
As a Korean friend once noted to me while hiking in Korea, “Americans always want to know where north is, why?”
So there we were, each summer, on top of the world.
Over the years, hiking became a favorite past-time of mine and not surprisingly, one of my sister’s least favorite activities. Now when I visit the camp we’ll hike and Amy always declines the invitation. I suppose we pushed her to hate it.
She’s done her time.
Sometimes when I am driving in the warm weather with the windows down, I hear Eric Clapton tuning his acoustic guitar. Reminding me of those perfect days of summer. Just me and my family, unplugged from the world. Eccentric and determined to reach the top of the world, even if it’s just for the afternoon.
Walking towards the ocean on the all-but-deserted dirt road, I felt the sun getting warmer. Palm trees lined the road and thick vegetation filled in the sides. Apart from my dirt path, the rest belonged to nature. The end of the road opened up onto the beach. A few palms dotted the shoreline and there was a fallen log in the sand down the beach.
The sand burned my feet so I ran to the water. The cool hard sand sank around my ankles as the ocean washed up and back over my feet. Digging me in. Keeping me still.
The wind rustled and a boat puttered out in deeper water fishing, the only sign of life I had seen moving on the island yet.
"Do you spend all of your time locked away in your room?"
A view from above shows the clouds swirling into the valley below. Overtaking the city and the highrises and the shopping centers. They are gone now.
"So you get out sometimes." She states.
"I wouldn’t say that."
The clouds form a swirling soup. It is quiet here quiet and cool. Crisp. The sun has recently risen. It is bathing the hillside in golden light. I can see my breath hang in the air, but I am not cold I am bundled up. It is so quiet up here. There is nothing. The leaves have fallen and the trees are baresticks below me.
"Have you been going to work?"
"I missed a couple days last week."
"Are you trying to keep yourself distant?"
The trail forks ahead. There is a sign. One reads “Ridge Trail,” the other has fallen off.
"You haven’t moved from this apartment in weeks. Your neighbors say they never see you."
"You know my neighbors?"
I hear some distant voices up ahead. I follow the path further upward. It twists into switchbacks that steeply climb the face of the hill. The sun is higher now. I think a couple of hours have passed, but it could have just been a matter of minutes. The sun moves in decieving ways at this time of year.
"We’re worried about you. Where are you right now?"
The voices are still distant. They are also walking uphill. I’ll see them at the top. I’m sure of it. I’m grateful to have some people to share the morning with. It is so beautiful up here.
"Do you want me to make you something to eat?"
"That’s ok. I’m not hungry."
The trees clear into a climbing rock face. They are big, bald boulders coming to a peak. The voices are at the top and I can start to make out what they are saying, “Beautiful” one says.
"I have to get to work. Take care of yourself. Want to come out tomorrow night?" She is starting to get up and put her coat on. The slow exit.
The top of the mountain is empty there is no one in sight. The clouds below have cleared by now as the sun burned them away. The city is a deep, scar running through the valley, traveling from North to South and sprawling up into the hills to the west.
A long trail leads to the top of the ridge. It follows a ravine cut out centuries ago by glaciers and running water. There are no trees on the ravine, only perfectly round rocks that somehow stay in place. Small roots stick out from trees off to the sides of the ravine and try to climb inward. Grasping for air or more water or another branch, a friend.
Or maybe they are just doing their favor to the rocks to hold them up. Like a little helping hand. They hold the rock to make a mountain and the rocks catch the water and float it to all the trees.