Every virtuous act is inspired by a dark secret – Shantaram
As if it could be god itself, the giver and taker of life, its punctual presence in daily dawn and dusk, the birth and death of life entirely. An element so fierce that the dark and gloomy shadows spend their entire lives running from it, only to be repeatedly defeated by its immense glory. A necessity so great nothing would move or exist without it. The only golden orb that will forever be free and will give man no reason to shed blood or wage war from its power. A solitude soldier fighting a lone war against the creeping cold that slithers from within the darkness at each days end. A fearful coward of an element the cold has always been, regaining its lost territory while its enemy turns its eye to the round side of the world. The cold watches us as we crawl into our own little dark spaces and hide from the uncomfortable hatred that the darkness brings. We hide and we hope, and we have yet to be disappointed from the forever faithful bright one. The savior returns at each dawn, peaking its gaze upon the jagged crest of the world allowing us to spectate the battle that eventually consumes its stealthy prey. Slowly detaching the shadows escape route to the horizon, the light surrounds its enemy in a strategic arc allowing the slow and miserable death of the ever decreasing shadows and cold until its final lethal strike at mid-day, when the sun sits upon its mighty throne at its highest point above our envying heads, it kisses our scalps and asks nothing in return for its virtuous act. Celebratory ceremonies are short lived however as the creator of life’s job is never done as it takes its battle to faraway lands in the west. And just as soon at the battle has been won, the shadows saturate the scorched earth behind its enemy, regaining its territory as the cycle of life and death dance in their domain and continue chasing each other around the globe
Sixty four days I have laid beneath the stars and watched this war unfold day after day, night after night, counting each and every victory as my own. The heat brings me strength but the cold brings me relief, I pick no sides and cherish both their strengths and weaknesses. One shall compliment the other. However much like the deadly swallower of life of which the river assumes responsibility; the heat which suffocates the air in my lungs in the past couple of weeks has to be well respected just like the demands from the water and cold. The heat has dealt a relentless strike against us on the river with no day in the last week dropping below 35 degrees and soaring as high as 44 degrees Celsius. A scheduled break every 10 kilometers prompts a plunge into the water fully clothed to ensure a complete saturation. A stale breeze offers no relief as the air in which it swooshes about could have easily been expelled from a restroom hand dryer. Some days it just becomes too overwhelming and like the moist saliva that gets sucked from the tongue, the energy from which the early morning had promised dissipates into the atmosphere along with the plentiful beads of sweat. An improvised schedule to cater a 4:30 am wake up allows us a comfortable few hours of paddling in the protection of the morning dew. Often the extreme heat of this part of the world is hardly noticed with the flourishing flora and fauna pressing in against the banks of the river, however a short walk out of the nourishing river banks reveal nothing but barren desert land streaked with a fluttering mirage of distorted reflections and pointy dehydrated vegetation. It seems too easy out here after more than two months to be removed from the realities of life and to be hypnotized by the nature itself that surrounds us.
It was on one of these hot days that I realized how unattached we make our selves believe we are and was reminded of how closely related to the wild we truly are, once removed from the structures and complications we make for ourselves. Some people call those complications ‘life`. After pulling up on a nice sandy beach, the sweat had already started to dry which means dehydration is progressively taking hold. I grabbed my water bladder and half stumbled, half shuffled myself to a large dead tree in the shade of its healthier neighbor. Intent on doing my daily push-ups and sit-ups, the only thing I managed to do was slump down face first along the dead trunk, letting my arms and legs dangle freely to the ground. What would normally be an impossibly uncomfortable position, greeted my aching muscles and bones with delight. After two months of sleeping on the cold hard ground the body toughens up and finds comfort in nearly any position or on any surface. The muscles learn to relax and mold around the irregularities of protruding rocks and logs while seeking refuge for the simple fact of being immobile and at rest. Like a clam that becomes irritated by misplaced grain of sand, it resents that foreign object to the point where that grown pearl becomes its most prized possession. It’s been a half dozen times where my air mattress has completely deflated during my sleep, and the only time I took notice was when the task came to packing it up. I laid there on that log in such peace and clarity of what humans actually are. I slouched in the shade in a semi-conscious state between the wondering dreams and the crawling ants. The memory of watching a documentary obout grizzly bears was so parallel with my own mannerisms that I managed a wiry half smile between the rough bark and my smothered cheek. Top of the food chain, lazing around in broad daylight, saving energy for the next meal. We’re not so different after all, us and them.. just creatures trying to survive. Simplicity in its rawest form.
I could see a reflection of the sky through the back side of my loosely dangling sun glasses in just one eye. A perfectly blue and unblemished sky was being dissected upon its beautifully eloquent skin by a jet plane. Its course slicing the globe of untouched blue as it made its progress to wherever it was destined. The plumes of vapor rolling up in its wake formed an uninterrupted scar, dividing the roof of our world with two ugly ridges where the wound had closed upon the tail wing of the plane. I thought about all the people on that plane and what was so important to them in their ‘lives` that they needed to fly, I wondered what kind of stress the business class passengers were trying to sleep off in their brief hours of isolation from the hand held cyber world. I wondered if anyone was looking down at me and wondering what the hell I was doing laying on that log in such an awkward position. And then wonder diluted into fact that in 265 kayaking kilometers time, that would be me up there looking down at my past, at my naivety, at my ignorance leaving that behind me and holding my new wisdom, knowledge, and courage deep within my heart on my way to the next chapter in my life. A new adventure.
265 Kilometers to go… Just keep dreaming..