Roger Marolt: The path to inspiration is well worn
I go into the wilderness and find a rock to sit on beneath a tree next to a high alpine lake looking for inspiration on something to write. But, what is there to be said about being in a spot like this that hasn’t been said 10,000 times before? If a picture is worth a thousand words, then millions of Instagram posts have amounted to billions more words uttered to describe this quest for insight I now seek. If nothing else, the newness of the ancientness has become worn. The ubiquitous gentle breeze, known intimately by all mankind, blows between me and genuine discovery.
I tell myself, there is no real inspiration here and it feels like a punch in my gut; not a heavy blow, more like a dull charlie-horse. I am touched in a meaningful way with the natural beauty surrounding me, but what could it inspire me to tell you that you would find interesting?
I love it up here precisely because I know exactly what to expect. I seek it every time for roughly the same reason that I cannot adequately express. The peaks above me are visually the same as they were when I first came here as a boy playing some storybook hero, as they will be a million years from now for a different boy with a different tale spinning his imagination. There is always a thrill in seeing wildlife in this place, but the surprise is only in the “when” we will spot it, not the “if.” I know there will be sun and storms and exertion in getting here, so my backpack is filled with the basic things that I would like for comfort and safety. Even the changeability of the outdoors is wholly predictable.
A reason we may have a hard time believing in heaven is that we cannot imagine an existence without pain, being it anything from a hangnail to the loss of a loved one. Out in the tall grass inundated with the scent of pine may be the closest thing to pain-free existence we can hope for here. Then we feel it; of course there is a heaven.
In the wild we are most nearly free from everything in our regular lives. All dirt paths might go to places where we are not distracted by things like work, if we let our minds wander where our feet lead. Thoughts of the mortgage and bills are hard to wedge into this open space. We are nourished enough to get here. Our thirst can be quenched from a stream. There is at least the illusion of having everything we need. The mountains are not what provide this. We can find it just as easily in the moment before slumber overtakes us lying in our beds. What the forest and drowsiness have in common is providing room in sight and mind sanitized from distractions so prevalent that we have adapted to “just live with them.”
The inconstancy of nature is intriguing. It is what is captured in the photo of a sliver of sunset caught reflecting off still waters while being pursued unawares from behind by a thunderhead bleeding backwards into the approaching darkness of nightfall. This is less a picture of nature than a portrait of time, a moment that will never occur again. It is what we marvel over when we see it digitized for posterity. It is more than brilliant orange, cold black and slippery blue. It is proof that we have outlived at least a piece of time.
Time truly is, then, the essence. I think of my wife and kids up here. I recall the times my parents brought me to places like this for some of the most enjoyable afternoons of my life. It begs the question: What am I appreciating now, the place or the people who introduced me to it? Even more to the point: Did they bring me here more because they loved it or me? I know the answers, but revel in the comfort in asking them over and over until I am comfortable in my own skin. I admit that I am loved.
So, I can’t say for sure that I find inspiration here. That is not the equivalent of saying I don’t love it or appreciate it as the great gift that it is. Mankind is obviously minuscule here; so indescribably small relative to the sky and stars beyond that I become certain this humbling realization means something big. In its invisibility to the cosmos, my life has great meaning beyond.
Roger Marolt knows when his blisters burn, mosquito bites itch and muscles ache, a great day has been had. Email at email@example.com.
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