Into the Winter

I’ve written 50 spur-of-the moment little essays over the last year on topics as diverse as running, nature appreciation and ice-fishing, if I can really count all these blog posts as “essays”. Nature has been a recurring theme; appreciation for it, overcoming its challenges and then its implications for the human world.

Now it’s time for me to wander back into the woods for a bit and check myself again; to regain the perspective that can only come from immersion in the wild. I’ll make sure my theorizing, my grand ideas, haven’t run too far astray from the real, the elemental. It’s my continuing education. It’s my point of reference on reality. It’s how I shut out the noise and focus. It’s how I retain as much wildness as I can.

And it’s going to push me beyond what I’ve formerly known to be my limits. By this I’m referring to cold. I’ve never hiked through the winter before and I’ve never been to Minnesota. I’ve never slept in a snow shelter and I’ve only snowshoed minimally. I don’t know if it’s possible to pull a sled of over a hundred pounds across Minnesota. I haven’t dealt with wolves before either.

Almost anyone would advise me to slow down a bit, to maybe take a class or watch more videos, read more books on how this is done. I’m risking life and limb after all, in an all too real sense. Maybe I should take more little walks this winter and sleep in a snow shelter once or twice and thing about next year stepping it up a notch.

But I think back to a decade or so ago when my longest hike had been 35 miles and I’d never really carried a pack of over 70 pounds before. People told me to take some classes, ask the experts and check trail reviews online. But I decided to take the leap, seize the moment and vault headlong into the wild. And after five years of dealing with rain, snow, torn feet, twisted ankles and endless trails, I emerged a wilder creature capable of clawing and biting my way out of the worst. And so I look northwest to Minnesota now and prepare to launch once again into the vast uncertainty of wild places, not assuming my preparations are perfect but knowing that I must adapt endlessly to keep myself alive and in motion. A night is coming next week when I’ll be lying under a snow mound, finding whether all my preparations were adequate and wondering what tomorrow’s trail holds in store.

And is this the greatest wonder of nature? The opportunity not only to discover infinitely but to test ourselves infinitely. And if this test really takes me beyond my limits, what better way for me to go than by snow or the wolf?

Thanks for a year of support and patronage of The Dying Fish. If all goes well, I’ll post something more in March of 2017.

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