When an adventure becomes routine there is a danger of losing perspective. Time to change that. Just now: I woke up to ducks cackling and rain on aluminum. That is because my bed is thirteen feet from the water’s edge and five feet below the roof of Tater, our adorable Airstream. Yet I am - fittingly - under layers of down. I'm waiting for the kettle to whistle, and then I will slosh full the coffee press. The stove is multi-tasking – heating these nineteen feet, my coffee cup, and most importantly my socks. It is a cold morning.
I’ve spent two days driving bad roads and poring over maps, unsuccessfully searching for a trail entirely across nearby Hells Canyon Wilderness. And then I woke up with the whole idea unraveled, in a good way, like a stubborn knot that comes loose once you drop the rope. The absence of trails means that Hells Canyon is exactly the place to traverse. Cross country. What an adventure in tangibles and metaphors. Now I am truly excited. Tomorrow, after this rare rain, hidden canyons will be briefly channeling water through this gorgeous desert. I will try the thing again.
With my hyper-consciousness of time, multiple days indoors makes me frustrated. But I had forgotten what I am doing: I am living in a solar-powered rolling condo on a lakeshore in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Life is distilled to a small number of tasks, nearly all important or satisfying. I look left and right; I can see my entire personal world from end to end. This is a 24-hour per day adventure. Wake up. It’s right here. It is truth, love, and beauty in every breath.
As the months go by, a question has been slowly emerging that I can no longer ignore. It is the Big Question. I have prefaced my presentations with a qualifier -- that I don’t have the answer to it. So at my routine bimonthly visit this week, I asked my doctor: “Why am I still alive?”
I prepared for an answer related to lifestyle or something biological, ready to smash platitudes into smithereens. Really, a diet of cigarettes and Twinkies would have served me as well as all those years of stinking salads and exercise. In fact, maybe I didn’t eat enough Twinkies. I’ve read the primary literature, I’m current on the research, and I know that the whole thing is a crap shoot.
Nope, I didn’t get platitudes.
Dr. Khera threw her east Indian wisdom at me, handed down from her mother: “You are part of a big picture and you cannot see all of it. You are here to be an inspiration, to provide a new perspective to everyone around you, including your doctors.”
Please pause for a moment.
Now, imagine hearing those words from your physician.
There are times every single day when I want to cry like a child. I don’t want this story. The world seems to hate the things that Deborah and I cherish. As humanity devolves into a weird blend of complacency and insanity, I have been considering the elegance of my right-now, sitting twelve feet from the lakeshore, in the middle of my favorite desert, watching the coots dive for lunch. I am unsettled by the probability that my doctor is right.