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Sense of Adventure

I moved to Montana last week.  The plan, as of now, is to stay here through the winter ice climbing season.  According to literature and local knowledge, the ice is mostly melted out by May; by then, presumably, I’ll have decided either to stay in Bozeman for the summer or to head somewhere else.

It's always showtime at Double Trouble

It's always showtime at Double Trouble

This process has been the prevailing theme of my life since last spring when graduation from divinity school proved imminent.  In May, I left Nashville and drove south and east to the Ocoee River where I worked a second season guiding rafts.

I spent most mornings running across mountain highways, most days driving rafts through class IV whitewater, and most evenings playing cards and board games.  After the last roll of the dice, I’d walk down to my plywood bungalow and read until I fell asleep (John Stuart Mill, Ayn Rand, and Peter Matthiessen were this summer’s projects).

On days off, I’d run on the trails behind the Ocoee’s Olympic Whitewater Center or meet friends in Chattanooga to climb.  Some weeks I’d head home to Atlanta for a couple of days to see friends and family and catch up on TV series.

Life on the river is hard to beat, but it does have a major flaw: it always ends.  After Labor Day, the recreational releases slow to two days a week, and by then most of the staff has gone back to school, anyway.  The warm afternoons get a little bit cooler, and the cool nights get a lot colder.  Whatever staff remain start to get restless for their winter destinations – ski hills out West, beaches down South, home wherever.  Then one day, after the last bus has been washed, the last paddle counted, and the last PFD put away, you turn in your paperwork and hit the road.  My road led to Montana.

This is, more or less, the pattern my life will follow for the next year.  When August rolls around again, I’ll be getting ready for another round of school.  Until then, I’ll be climbing, running, traveling, reading, writing.  At some point, I’ll figure out where to go after Bozeman – or not.  Proximity to classic climbing is my major motivator, and whatever forces created these mountains sure left plenty of vertical miles to travel.  This adventurer’s greatest challenge is deciding where to go next.

Walking off of one climbing is walking toward another...

Walking off of one climb is walking toward another...

I have learned, though, that not everybody gets it.  I’ve gotten pretty used to the standard responses people have when I tell them about my plans.  Some – the adventurers and the explorers – think it’s life at its best; some – the spiritual and the wandering – think it’s the beginning, middle, or end of some great quest; some – the family and the friends – just want me to be careful.  All of these are fine and good, and I appreciate each for parts and find myself indifferent toward each for others.

Most of the people I meet fall into one or more of these categories, and the conversations that are shared energize all involved.  In these spaces, relationships are strengthened, dreams are uplifted, and, in moments of rare and beautiful synergy, new adventures are born.

There remains, however, a last class, a destructive class.  These are people that don’t understand the adventure and don’t want to – people who think it’s all a waste of time, a sort of adolescent escapism.  They use words like “wanderlust” and ask what I’ll do after I “find myself.”  They assume there must be some end I’m seeking, some goal, some transformation, and once I feel like I’ve achieved whatever it is I’m after, I’ll join them in the real world.

Of course, that line of thinking completely misses the point.  When a person loves something the way I love climbing, exploring, and being a part of the mountains, it is an impossible something to let go of.  In the moment the destroyers become satisfied that I have sufficiently found myself, I will have become truly lost.

My favorite literary advisor

My favorite literary advisor

The main character of Walker Percy’s seminal The Moviegoer (which is, for what it’s worth, my dad’s favorite book) is similarly disillusioned when his aunt suggested that his time spent as a seeker was his personal Wanderjahr and, thereby, a rite of passage due any young man.

His response is perfect.  “Wanderjahr.  My heart sinks.  We do not understand each other after all.  If I thought I’d spent the last four years as a Wanderjahr before ‘settling down,’ I’d shoot myself on the spot.”  Indeed.

The Allman Brothers Band once implored that we “just step [ourselves] outside and look up at the stars above.”  Well, consider it done.  I’ll be writing here once a week for the foreseeable future.  Expect stories of great adventures, near (hopefully) misses, and life removed from the “real world” that loves to bind and blind.

All of you adventurers, explorers, spiritualists, wanderers, family and friends – I hope to see you here.  All of you destroyers – we won’t miss you.  Meanwhile, I?  I ain’t wastin’ time no more.

1 comment to Sense of Adventure

  • Big

    There are those that fall within all three groups you mentioned when you revealed your plans. My take:(1) What you’re doing is awesome. You only have a limited amount of time when you can do these types of things. Either resposibilities to others (ie wife & kids) or Physical liabilites (ie you get old)kill the dream.(2) There certainly has to be a spiritual sense to it or you wouldn’t do it. I can sense that in your writing. (3) People love you, which is the best feeling you can get. My advice to you is simple, if there are wolves in the area, don’t fuck around with them!
    Big Marty