The timeline in my head is a knotted ball of yarn, my most recent memories involve ropes and rocks in the strange stretch of land known as Joshua Tree.
But, I can still listen to certain songs, close my eyes, and be transported back to the plains of South Dakota, riding along the Columbia River in Oregon or winding through the Redwoods of California.
Countless moments of solitude from the seat of my bike, so many miles of scenery fly through my mind like a bright red ribbon over my eyes and suddenly I’m home like it never happened, like a compelling dream that stays with you for the rest of your life. I intentionally put the pen down a couple days into my month-long stint in J-Tree, I knew it would be a blur no matter how hard I tried to hold onto details.
It’s a fuzzy memory, unlike anything I saw in the landscape – ok, all the mice and rabbits and coyotes are pretty fuzzy. All the plants are rigid and defensive, a harsh place to grow.
Even the rocks are anything but smooth, they’ve taken their fair share of skin and blood from me and many others. I like to think we’ve all given our blood and our skin, a gesture of respect.
There’s something compelling about that place, it takes hold of many people and beckons their return year after year, the dirtbags who live out of their cars and survive off rocks and adrenaline and meals crafted in communal dutch ovens by campfire coals.
To wake up outside, ready to watch the sunrise is a special thing, even when a layer of frost covered my sleeping bag.
The sun would be up soon enough to dry it all out, to heat up the rocks for us to climb. Everyday, we had to opportunity to defy death, to trust science and each other’s ability to implement science to get our Earthbound asses up on top of some rocks, screaming and swearing at times when we were giving all we had and sometimes a little more.
I never thought I’d be a rock climber but damn, that’s some good adrenaline. I’ve felt small many may times over the course of 7 months but, how humbling it is knowing a wrong move, some man-made error on a sheer rock wall can send you to your death.
I’ve thought about death a good deal and even though I have a lot of trust in myself and my friends at the end of the rope, I never felt closer to death than my month in Joshua Tree.
It’s something we can’t avoid, we might as well get used to it. It still blows my mind all the things I’ve seen and done and the people I’ve met...here I am at home with a roof over my head and all the people I’ve shared my life with except the last 7 months.
I want them all to know and understand what went on and how I feel but damn, no words or drawings or photos will ever make anyone understand. This whole ‘life’ thing is intensely personal but, we’re all trying to make at least one other person know what life is like in our own skull.