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[pct-l] goals

Thanks Jeffrey for your heartfelt and eloquent thoughts.  I, too, felt 
many of the same things you experienced.  For me, the goal of "Canada" 
was the framework around which to build the experience, the lens through 
which I saw my surroundings. "Canada" got me through the initial bugs, 
snow, heat, and injuries.  But to paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, changes in 
latitude bring changes in attitude.  As the weeks wore on, the struggle 
itself became the thing.  Always the struggle.  As a football running 
back into a defensive line, I threw myself at the trail (or the snowy 
lack thereof) and the other daily challenges.  Sometimes I'd get stopped 
for a loss but 3 yards and a cloud of dust was sufficient progress.  I 
had stretches, sometimes long stretches, of great doubt and despair, 
punctuated by moments of profound joy.  And always the struggle.  As the 
weeks stretched in months, I slowly shuffled off the mortal coil. My 
"center" emerged in the way that a newborn enters the world: blind, cold, 
wet, and sputtering.  I had no need for things, only an occasional warm 
nipple and a story told through the trees.  I learned what it is to truly 
be alive, to awaken the senses, to hear and sometimes fear the screams of 
silence.  Sadly, so many people, especially those living in an urban 
environment, never really know what it is to be alive.  We spend our days 
trying to drown the silence with sound and furry.  When the fury dies 
down, we reach for the clicker and change the channel.  All in the 
relentless pursuit to avoid pain.  Take a pill, it will feel better.  For 
me, long distance hiking was/is all about embracing the pain and learning 
to separate mere things from true needs.  I was and still am profoundly 
humbled by the experience.

PCT '99

>Message: 14
>Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 10:52:57 -0700
>From: Jeffrey Olson <jjolson@uwyo.edu>
>Subject: Re: [pct-l] goals
>Cc: PCT-L@mailman.backcountry.net
>One of the great things about hiking for more than a couple weeks is the 
>very tangible sense of
>civilization's filters dissapating with each day, and sometimes each step. 
> All the busyness and rush rush
>recedes and a sense of presence, unbounded by past or future, emerges.  
>For me this was a wholeness of
>feeling that allowed me to make sense of my life.
>These were moments usually, sometimes long moments, but moments 
>nonetheless.  Without the busyness filters
>my emotions raged, up and down, from tears and the overwhelming 
>realization I wasn't having fun, longing
>for the trip to be over, to utter ecstatic highs during which I wasn't 
>even aware of walking.
>The sense of presence in which all made sense ebbed and flowed with my 
>emotions.  It came and went.  I made
>sense of what I was doing when I felt this calm, this sense of compassion 
>for myself and the very precious
>and fragile life I was leading.  I'd fall off this center into an emotion, 
>ride the roller coaster in
>whatever direction it was going, only to find myself again a minute, hour 
>or day later.
>There was a whole continuum of goals left over from my "busy-ness" life in 
>civilization, from planning the
>trip; the goal to finish hiking Oregon and Washington, the goal to pare my 
>pack's weight, to start walking
>before the sun came up, to find a stream for a three hour break at 
>mid-day, to eat dinner on the trail and
>camp at the top of a ridge, to make the top of the ridge when tired, 
>thirsty, hot and hungry.
>I felt all these goals as extensions of another life making its presence 
>felt.  It was hard to let go of
>them, to ride the emotions letting go entailed, to ride them without 
>"doing" anything about them, to find
>the center once again.  Far easier to jerk myself out of my sleeping bag 
>and time how long it took me to
>pack up, shit and hit the trail, to get 15 miles in by noon, to agonize 
>whether to stop at 4 or hike til
>7.  All the decisions and emotions around them narrowed and shortened my 
>view of my life, and I'd realize
>what was happening and my heart would hurt immeasurably.  And that too 
>would pass, sometimes with tears,
>sometimes with a tricky creek crossing, sometimes with a breath-taking 
>vista, other times with a drink of
>I don't think we are taught how to live well in the world of busyness, to 
>find our own centers and act from
>there.  Long distance hiking creates the possibility to do this.  Long 
>distance hiking alone makes it
>almost imperative.  To be alone is probably the most feared and difficult 
>thing we humans can do.  Perhaps
>from within the center what we perceive from without as fearful eventually 
>reveals itself to be the way
>things are anyway...
>Just some thoughts...
>Jeffrey Olson
>Laramie, Wyoming, where Spring is just beginning...