I’m reading a book written by a friend. The book is about some of his solitary journeys, mostly in Alaska. The writing is often beautiful and sometimes I’m able to perceive its beauty. The thing is, he writes in Italian.
In one of the stories he writes about arriving at the cabin he leased for several years and where he will spend five weeks. To get there he has to hire a hydroplane. In this segment the hydroplane has two other passengers. When they see that he is being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, they begin to caution him about the dangers of being in the wilderness alone.
One of the things I KNOW about this person is that would piss him off. We hiked in Arches National Monument very late one afternoon through dusk into night. Our destination was the Delicate Arch overlook. The road to the Delicate Arch was closed, and we wanted to see the arch, so we walked and ran. We had to hurry. On our way, a man tried to stop us telling us we’d never get there in time to see it and we’d never find our way back in the dark.
I thought my friend was going to belt the guy for interfering and slowing us down. I was pretty sure we’d find our way back in the dark. As for the Delicate Arch? NOT seeing it was not as important to me or my friend as trying. Did we get there? We did. You can draw your own conclusions about whether we got back.
My friend has written in his book that the last thing he needed to hear when he’s dropped off in the actual middle of true nowhere is a couple of strangers cataloging the risks. He knows the risks, and he is apprehensive, but how useful is fear when he’ll be there for five weeks alone?
As I read my friend’s words, I thought about Reinhold Messner saying in his film for Outside Magazine “My Life at the Limit,” that it wasn’t climbing Everest without oxygen that scared him. Doing it alone scared him. Solitude scared him and that was what he was conquering, not the mountain, not the lack of air to breathe.
I’ve never had to confront solitude like that, but my whole life has been pretty solitary, mostly by choice. As a kid I was constantly trying to get out by myself somewhere, the woods, the bluffs, the hills, the mountains. That and wanting a dog seem to have been the consuming forces of my life. When I got my first REAL dog (Truffle) I understood what the combination meant for me. Freedom. I could go ANYWHERE with a big dog. It was a liberating partnership.
My friend has described himself as a misanthrope. Maybe he is. That’s something no one but him can possibly know. I’m not. I like people, but there is a difference between solitude in nature and experiences in nature with friends. I like both, but probably I like solitude in nature (with a dog) best (though I never turn down a chance to hike with a friend because it is fun). I have been stopped on many trails by people asking if I were afraid to hike alone. My answer was always no, that I was more afraid NOT to hike.
Still, I have no experiences that compare with being dropped by a hydroplane at a remote Alaskan cabin where I will stay for five weeks, except, maybe, my whole life. That’s something to reflect on as I continue reading these stories.
9 thoughts on “Reading a Friend’s Reflections”
I wish I had the guts to do things like that on my own. I’d always have my partner with me if I even went in the first place.
My friend preferred having someone along, but it wasn’t always possible.
Your Italian is an amazing person from what I’ve read about him.
My husband describes himself as a misanthrope too. The truth is few people get him because they cannot cope with companionable silence. He doesn’t do small talk and is relatively inscrutable.
I don’t do small talk, either. I’ve learned to get other people to talk to me about themselves which gets me off the hook and gives them the idea that I’m interesting. Companionable silence is great when you know where you stand with the person, otherwise, it can be scary and alienating. People complain about me after a while saying, “I never feel like I get closer to you.” I seem to have an impenetrable border in there somewhere OR they think there’s more to me than there is. 🙂
I find you so chatty, Martha. But yeah, it is very different when confronted by people who want to talk about your personal history.
I’m friendly and talkative and can do small talk for a while, but not long. Lucky for me, I live in a place where people don’t do seem to do small talk at all. Conversation is a luxury here.
That’s good. Some may not get your jokes. 🙂
Often… 😉 I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I save it for myself and the initiated.
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