Wednesday, September 24, 2014
fear & death
The most common question I have been asked this week when mentioning my trail adventure is: "weren't you scared?"
Fear. Yes, I had a few fears while walking alone in the mountains, but these didn't stop me from walking alone in the mountains... I did wake up at night and wonder what those noises in the woods were. Sometimes I clapped my hands or made animal-like growling noises to scare away all of the scary monsters outside of my tent, lurking in the dark, waiting to eat me alive.
However, the things that threaten human lives on the PCT aren't sexy things like wild animal attacks. Rather, lives are threatened daily by the following common and unsexy things:
(this is the closest approximation of what I believe to be the order of frequency)
1) human stupidity
6) heat stroke
8) bee stings (for those with severe allergies, especially)
9) interactions with cars while hitchhiking to town to re-supply
All of that being said...
What I really fear is slow death -- not the death that people imagine when they ask me about bears and mountain lions and the Boogey Man on the PCT. I fear a living-death. A slow death in the suburbs, a lack-of-life, so common to every-town-USA. I fear death by Papa Johns and Applebees and Walmart and women with shopping addictions and frosted hair and hundreds of faux storefronts that have been contrived to look quaint.
I also fear a slow death in an ICU or a SNF. I fear the mortality that people fear: a life unlived, death too soon... and this is why I hiked 800 miles in 2 months, rode my bicycle across the country, slept with Grizzly bears in Alaska, hitch-hiked in Central America. Because when its all said and done, when its time to die, its time to die. I really fear all of those un-done things, all of the experiences I might miss out on by being afraid of the world. Fear, to me, IS death. Being afraid of living is not that different from dying. To be alive is to face fear, acknowledge it, and then do the scary things anyway.