Not all Golden LightDecember 5, 2018
The wind continues to howl, as it has for fifteen hours now. Tucked away in this cedar clad kingdom, I let myself dwell for a moment on the existence I’ve come to live. Beautiful sunrises, solitude by the handful, and five-hundred thousand acres of National Park playground at my finger tips are quality ingredients for a life worth examining. As the observation continues, I stumble upon the fact that being the caretaker of Mt. LeConte is not all golden light. To the contrary, the demands of living alone in the wilderness might lead many to abhor the experience all together. Through further examination, I’m finding that these arduous elements of life on the mountain is the glue of life, bonding the mind, body, and spirit.
The weight of the blue plastic jugs radiates through my arms and into my shoulders and back. Ten gallons of liquid gold remains securely nestled in my grip. Recent readings claim the average American uses ten times this amount of water each day. I take a deep breath and continue the one-hundred yard haul toward the kitchen. This water will last me almost four days. One day of the American average would last me a month.
I pass the shower and laundry bucket - two and a half gallon, galvanized. Without running water, I find myself reveling in simpler times. A pre-dug pit toilet spares me the work of digging cat-holes; common practice during my thru-hiking days. This is a good thing; I can now dedicate energy to hauling up groceries - if someone from the trail community hasn’t already volunteered to supply.
To be alone. I believe we all crave it, to some extent, but for how long? Week and after week of being alone in the wilderness - unease may begin to creep in. I assure that it’s not something to fear. Solitude gives an opportunity to nurture one of the most important relationships we can harbor - the relationship with oneself. In a world of continuous stimulation from outside sources, a well established personal opinion of who we are can slip away. So, to be alone, I invite it with open arms.
The jugs flop down on the stainless steel counter. I pause for a moment to catch my breath - it would get easier as the winter progressed. Everything gets easier the more we do it. I view the challenges of winter caretaking as touchstones rather than millstones. A life of ease has never really been the point. To simplify or to live without - for something to be inconvenient - opens the way for a life of gratitude and awareness on every level.
How can we appreciate water - if we’ve never had to feel its weight.