I had a moment of nirvana early this afternoon while standing in the sun behind the house. Squid ran joyfully back and forth, to and fro, biting up stalks of weeds and grass playfully, shaking them about, nibbling, and then spitting them back out at my command. The moment hit me as I took a sip of my peach tea and whiskey.
With cigarette in hand I took a slow drag and exhaled, letting the moment last. Having finally made the leap to quit, but afraid of the failure from cold turkey, I cut back from twenty cigarettes a day to seven. I’m spending the next year setting myself up for the trail, and that means by the end of this month I need to be down to zero cigarettes a day.
But more importantly : I’m spending the next two and a half years setting myself up for thirty.
Thirty is important to me. My thirties will be when life truly begins. I’ve wanted to be in my thirties since I can remember.
Well, that’s a lie.
I remember saying that I expected to live no longer than twenty when I was in elementary. Let’s say since middle school.Thirty is important because people take you seriously as an adult. In the twenties, everyone expects you to be an adult, and act like an adult, but no one treats you as such either way, forcing you into this purgatorial void of, well, twenties. Ten long years of twenties. Ugh. But more specifically, I really started to anticipate it when twenty two came around, because that’s when I realised that until thirty, no one would truly take me seriously. Twenty two holds a lot of significance as a year as well. I moved to Arizona, chasing after Lai for the last time, finding a friend in Eric instead, and then packing and leaving at the first chance I got to return to Oregon, to safety, my family, and to my friends. Something familiar and right and true.
These thoughts led me into thinking about the Pacific Crest Trail and how significant it really is in my life. It’s not just a long hiking vacation, or endurance test, or long hippie camping trip. It’s my coming of age tale. It’s the thing that will usher in my thirties. On June twelfth, two thousand and fifteen, I will be twenty nine years old. I will spend the next three to four months hiking over mountains, burning in desert heat, and walking through thick forests, defining my limits, discovering my fullest, healthiest potential, and then, toward the end, contemplating my next step. My next job, living situation, meal, hike.
The daydream came quickly as I closed my eyes against the sun.
Standing at the edge of a wood that circles a large, crystal blue lake, I stand, Squid beside me, sitting patiently, obediently, her too forged anew in the gauntlet of the PCT, our bond becoming stronger with each day, with each step. The sun beams down on me, my skin tanned and leather, my face covered in a thick, long beard of brown, blonde, and red spattered with dust and sticks and leaves. My hair is long, tied back with rubber bands and a twist tie, pieced together with things I could salvage from other things. The hair, like the beard, has become something akin to the ground I walk atop. I’m wearing a white t-shirt with an unhappy cloud on it, the shirt, like the rest of me – sunstained, dirty, and worn.
A green flannel shirt also hangs over me and down my arms, the sleeves ripped off from who knows what or why at the elbow. Maybe just for convenience. A few speckles of blood can be seen among the common theme of filth. Black jean cut off shorts cover my waste, crotch, and legs to just above the knee. My socks are long, and what once was more than likely white is now brown, sweat soaked and saturated with dust.
The boots that cover them are caked with mud of all varieties, making the weather abused brown leather that much more inspiring. The tops and ankle of the boots mainly just worn leather with a spattering of dried, dusty mud. But the lower the eye drops on these ill fated footwear, the fresher and more intense the groupings of mud become until finally, at the sole, the wet soily earth has all but devoured what the mind can only hope to be good, in tact rubber.
My pack drops to the earth and I take a deep breath, exhale sharply, and laugh louder and more heartily than I ever knew I could.
So different than me now that it startles me back to the waking world.
The sun is gone, and I’m back beneath the gray shade of the city.