Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Notes to my younger self
I just had a birthday, and floating in a borrowed kayak among the mangroves I thought back to a time when I was much younger, still possessed by a gypsy soul that made me pick up and move every six months, fighting fire in Florida and hiking in the mountains in Idaho. Drifting with the tide I thought of a few things I would like to tell my younger self.
• Don’t carry such a heavy pack. We wilderness rangers were proud of our big loads. We trooped into the barn to weigh them, exulting in the fact that they topped out at over seventy pounds. They just got heavier the longer we were out, and we trudged back to the parking lot festooned with Boy Scout cooking cans, discarded shoes and the ever-present tin foil.
Lighten your load. Years from now, your knees will rebel. You will undergo surgery. You will think twice about leaping off cliffs. You will hate this betrayal.
• Don’t be in such a hurry. Drop your tools, put your feet in a creek. The trees will still be jackstrawed across the trail in a few minutes. Lean your head back, look up at the sky. Breathe in the cleanest air you will ever know.
• Don’t think that this person, or this place, is the only one you will ever love. There are other mountains and other people; it is easy to pass them by if your heart is stuck in the past.
• Wear sunscreen, for the love of Pete. Yes, I know you spent your teenage years slathered with tanning oil on the back porch. Yes, I know all wilderness rangers are tan, to differentiate themselves from the sickly looking office folk. All I can say is, you’ll be sorry.
• Believe. You are more beautiful and strong than you think you are. You will look back at old photos of yourself and marvel at everything you were able to do. You could work a 48 hour shift on the fireline, drag hose up a mountain, set a prairie on fire. Honestly, was there one thing you couldn’t do, if you put your mind to it?