The hammock is strung up close to the burbling brook, shaded from the fierce afternoon rays. A refreshing gose sits in its Koozie next to a dog-eared copy of Dharma Bums. A dusty bike finally rests against a nearby tree and the campsite is far enough away that any commotion is a mere whisper. It is a mountain paradise and I slip into the nylon’s ensconce, primed for much-needed relaxation.
Five minutes into Kerouac’s initial description of the Zen lunatic Japhy Ryder and I am already up and about, pacing, restless, compelled by some internal energy to fiddle with the derailleur, to think about dinner prep, to wonder if I can sneak in a hike before cocktail hour begins in earnest. It is an alarming irony that reading has traditionally been my safe haven. I cannot sit still; I have more of Japhy’s lunacy than his equanimity. Neither my body nor my mind can find peace, only relentless motion.
Last ski season began for me on November 2 and my life since then has been marked by an overabundance of challenges, of despair, of heartache, of outright, gut-wrenching tragedy. It is a testament to these objective difficulties that coronavirus seems a mere blip, another situation to address with the fortitude with which I have both been blessed and have cultivated. It has clearly been the most arduous single period of my existence to date.
And yet, the most glorious. I have been buoyed by the exultations of a 110-day season, by barbaric yawps from high mountain peaks, by the radiance of Violet’s smile, by the rituals of quarantine, by animated dinner discussions with my folks, by punishing days in the saddle, by sunset drinks with old and new friends, by floats out of my comfort zone, by moonlit escapades, by a law firm firing on all cylinders, by a mediation practice finally coming into its own, by the promises of a tertiary career (more details on that one to come…).
Both armchair and credentialed psychologists would be quick to observe that my constant forward motion is just a coping mechanism for escaping my troubles; that when I finally stop to rest I will be consumed by the demons that chase me. Perhaps they are correct. But I am self-aware enough to posit an alternative hypothesis: it is only through motion that I am able to fully process the complexities of my life.
In the time that I spend in the skin track or on the trail or on the river or keeping up with Violet or even just tidying the house, I have the mental space to consider not only the quandaries of my own life, but those of my clients, of the friends that I am emotionally supporting, of the Valley, of humanity writ large. My mind does not work as efficiently if I actively try to contemplate; I am more effective in a moving meditation. It is a lot like sleep; the more you think about it, the worse it works. I suppose I am more Zen than I originally espoused, but no less a lunatic.
Sitting and wallowing, calling 2020 a disaster, turning to the bottle, those are not productive uses of time. In the end, my penchant for motion, for accomplishment, for very full days and nights reflects my recognition that we have a limited lifespan. Each night, after I put down the Kindle, I sleep the slumber of the exhausted, not putting it off until I am dead, but so that I may awake refreshed to move purposefully through each day.