Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what you think in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Out for a walk and I realize that everything I know to be fact, through careful scientific observation, has been told to me. The things that I assume to be true, through my own experiences and observations, are but a myth.
I hear myself explaining the nature of this cinder cones existence and I realize I’m making shit up. Yeah, the boulders here that we’re walking on are a result of ancient volcanic activity. This cone here is due to the volcanic activity of Mt. Rainier (Tahoma), see the veins of molten lava running underground are all connected from Tahoma to Mt. Baker and these cones are pockets that burst into the landscape. And if I’d kept this all in my head it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone, but the fact that impressionable young minds are listening, forming opinions of the world around them, which now won’t jive with the academic knowledge that will be fed to them means that perhaps I’m doing the future a disservice. On the other hand maybe this is exactly what we need.
As we walk the trail we come to a stretch of maple trees that provide no cover to the midday drizzle and we get a little wet. The trail has spots of mud and still we stop to listen to the finches, or chickadees, or whatever they are in the tips of trees. Trying as best we can to spot one, when we realize that the empty swing-like squeaking is actually twenty or forty or a thousand tiny birds flitting from one tree-top to the next. And we continue to chat in the same way the birds move through the trees, from one subject to the next, nibbling on tiny bits of information, cleaning our feathers in thoughts of fantasy, and rubbing our beaks, sharpening our minds on the branches of myth.
There is something that connects all of these things, but it runs so deep that I can’t see it. I walk the same routes through habit; wear the trail into rugged landscapes for the benefit of comfort. And then there are things that we just know to be good for us, that we trust to be right and good, through our own belief. I stood, we all stood, atop the cinder cone with bare feet. We sat down and took our shoes and socks off and stood atop the cinder cone with bare feet. While I did this, of course in the back of mind I thought about the other hikers probably, almost certainly coming up the trail and what they would see and what they would think. But my kids did not seem to care either way! Yeah it’s January, but so what. Have you ever felt the chill of pristine moss in mid-winter at two-hundred feet elevation on your bare feet? Probably not. I haven’t either until today. What did it change? Nothing, except that my feet still tickle with joy.
The image of the scientist, of the academic, holds so much value today that in order to be successful you have to be either one or the other, it seems. Success is a symptom of a degree. I am neither, yet I have tried to create this image that I am, I have wanted to be and so I have sold this idea to others and to myself. I have considered myself a failure, another long held belief. I place these expectations on my kids, because in society it’s what has value. Yet all I really do is create myths. The veil of this image is thin, and who cares about being respectable anyway.
I’ve been putting myself out there a bit more lately. Opening myself up to rejection and in doing so I’ve realized that for so long I’ve been sticking to the worn out trails, following the science that’s told to me, avoiding eye contact with the World. But the trails are so grooved that it is so hard to venture off. It takes time and effort. Little by little I wear away at the self-made ridge, hopefully.
So we walked with our new found amazement that these boulders of granite are formed by the molten veins, that they are older than any of our technologies, that they are ancient and have some kind of knowledge that we cannot begin to fathom. We walked and talked about our future plans. We listened to rain drop on ferns, the melody of birds flicked through sun breaks, footclops in mud puddles.
This spark of imagination at our feet, rugged and jagged, fissured and moss daubed, is a line of poetry which we write by living and smiling and breathing. Here today, gone tomorrow, the explosion of rhythm and tone throbbing worn grooves of habituation.