Thursday, March 26, 2015

nederland, co

a collection of some of my analogue photos from my recent trip to nederland, co.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

on the verge

     I have been on the verge for a few years now. How one comes about being on the verge, I don’t know. The verge of everything? Sounds too poetic. Ambiguous. The verge of nothing? Too dismal. You can’t understand it in that sense. Simply, on the verge. We never achieve anything, at least within ourselves. Within that daiquiri of ice that brooms are thoughts, within that tough brazened hull of our forehead that means to venture quite regardless. The limited, limited few. Without insatiable people, the rest of the world couldn’t be satiated. They recklessly strive for things that they will never reach; they are, in fact, on the verge. You cannot leave the verge once you are part of it. You can buy a home in Montana and marry a woman named Rebecca from Missoula, but someday, a star will tread across the blue velvet curtains of earth and remind you that you have a calling. Whether it be to man a spacecraft to space, or to create some novel painted greatness. We have an affinity to the verge itself, not to the task at hand. We are like mindless spies who only require our next target. We are the engines for anything, and it’s all quite spontaneous and unruly. Our boat-like souls tip and splash. We don’t know how to spend our lives in a boat, no matter how perilous the outcome may be. We were dragged by our pale ankles in the dawn of some unimportant night into boats that we would be destined to abandon. The verge is a short lived thing, but it’s an inescapable enigma. We are as destined to die on the verge, as most are to die with far less purpose a couple decades later.
     Never coach us from the depths of our oblivion. Never shout our purpose lost; for it will never be. Never proffer our work to be unmanned, unsolved, or unfathomed. We are the ripples of night; the windswept skin of people jumping from planes; the red stars that burst too quickly; we are illuminated, bathe in the light, blacken our white! We are bound to serve an arguable “something.” I have been on the verge for a few years now. How one comes about being on the verge, I don’t know.

a foggy uproar

            My French roommate and I embarked south on a Sunday afternoon to Monte Gorbea, just outside of Vittoria, Spain. Monte Gorbea is the highest elevation (1400 m) in our immediate area. After Monte Pagasarri and the Pyrenees, I expected this hike to be fairly easily. Another hiking friend from my university had told me that it was an easy hike, but that the last kilometer to the top was pretty steep. We joked about how crazy the Spanish drivers were, as were leaving our apartment. That back home (for both of us) people drove a lot better. However, within the first ten minutes of our drive out of Bilbao — I got to see just how ironic that conversation was.
Ive never seen someone so mad in my life. Not at me, not at the government, and most definitely not at a minor delay in traffic.
            He cursed endlessly in french out the window, and I spent a good while just thinking Is he going to physically attack the driver in front of us? He kept the car within inches of any vehicle determined to delay our hiking endeavor. I decided that it must have been a cultural difference between us. In places like Chicago, everyone is an aggressive driver; nobody stands out as an ostentatious lunatic. But here we are at a standstill in Indauxtu, and hes the only screaming frenchman in the bunch. What a sight it must have been to see this quiet American reading a book next to this pugnacious frenchman. Out of fear of getting punched in the face, I kept quiet and repeated está bien, está bien whenever my reassurance seemed necessary.
It wasnt until we were driving at 80km/hour, swerving through the monte out of Bilbao that I felt I should say something.
            His GPS kept pointing us in the wrong direction, and it was making him crazier every second. I took over the driving instructions as if I knew exactly where we were, which wasnt true. He trusted me long enough to not kill me, or the perfectly happy drivers around us. We left Bilbao in the direction of Vittoria, and I just couldnt have predicted a stranger or riskier start to a fairly short trip. We drove through a small down just thirty minutes later, and we followed the signs that pointed us towards Monte Gorbea. We parked, grabbed our bags, and headed towards the trail.
            I dont think there is a more efficient set of hikers than two young men. We asked each other constantly, Do you need a break? When really we were asking Am I better than you? That prideful bit of banter in a couple of semi-experienced hikers is always somewhat of a dangerous thing. We aimed to hike to the top within two hours; and with our passive competition between us, we did just that. We passed horses and cows, but the higher you hike in the Basque country, the more likely you are to find a herd of sheep. They are the symbol of the region, and a symbol of the altitude. We hiked past a herd of sheep after hiking for an hour or so.
            The hike is shaped in a way that makes it impossible to really know where the top is exactly. There were many moments where I felt like I knew where the peak was, but it always ended up being just a small step in the ladder. The competition between us died out as the mountain was obviously beginning to affect both of us. We took short breaks to drink water and look down below, but nothing more than thirty seconds at a time. We took pleasure in the brief plateaus and cursed the moments where we realized there was far more ahead of us. Eventually we came across a higher peak where fog rolled over the mountain. For a second I thought that we had finally made it to the last kilometer, but after all of the disappointing realizations now below us, I had my doubts.
Following the markers across the otherwise pathless incline, we weaved through the silky, wet terrain. The fog hugged us tight, and there was nowhere below us to look anymore. It was a real peaceful thing that moment, to be cut off from all sorts of things. We pointed to a stone marker ahead of us. And with the waning solace of daylight, we promised to head back after reaching it. Luckily for us, the cross signifying the top of Monte Gorbea was visible from our final marker. With delight and awe, we hiked with a newfound motivation in our step to reach the top.
            Neither one of us wanted to hike back without reaching the top, but I knew that my roommate was scared of losing daylight. While he was crazy when it came to driving, I was just as maniacal about downhill hiking in the pitch dark: something that probably will never phase me as much as it should. I sauntered up the last 100 meters, while my roommate tried to herd me like a lost sheep to the overlooking cross. Now that we were reaching the top, he was finally starting to realize that only half of the hike was over — and that a good portion of what remained would be in the dark.
I handed him my hiking headlamp, which I brought for him to use in case it got dark quickly. He turned the light on immediately, even though it wasnt necessary. It was at this point that he decided to tell me that his dad competes professionally in running down mountains like the one we were on. This was only my third time ever hiking, but I didnt want to look inexperienced, so I sprinted after him over the black, tumbling rocks. We weaved; we jumped; and we flew, to each passing plateau until the light of the world was no longer with us. Our pace slowed and we hiked closer together, but within a few minutes of darkness the headlamps battery died. I couldve cared less. I was excited to open my pupils to the wild, rocky madness in front of us. We spent a good five minutes trying to get the light to come back on, until I offered my iPhone as a flashlight. He seemed content with the idea, and we hiked cautiously towards the tree-line.
            We warned each other when we found unstable patches of rocks and paid little attention to anything that existed outside of the 10 foot radius of the pale iPhone light. The path evened out and we eventually were able to hike normally again. At one point my roommate stopped in his tracks and whispered to me anxiously, to listen to a sound coming from my right. I heard nothing out of the normal, really. All I knew was that whatever the sound was, it was scaring the shit out of my roommate. What could it be? The famous serial-killer of the Basque country? Was it a legendary french hiking myth? There are no bears in this region, or mountain lions, or anything ferocious for that matter. He tried to explain it to me in hushed and frightened Spanish, but I was failing to understand the imminent danger. He switched to english for the brief warning of, It sound of like wild hog, boar, and if you hear it, you climb to the tree immediately.
            That made a whole lot more sense to me. I was still incredulous to the idea that some husky 80 pound beast was about to charge us. I wasnt risking it, though. Ive never claimed to be a hog expert or anything. I picked up a couple of rocks from the path and held them in both of my hands. I felt like it was probably just the fear of hiking in the dark. Its not that Im more courageous; I just sort of tune out the situation and go to a happy place. And while were hiking through a dark forest, Im just thinking about how badly I need to do laundry. Laundry isnt scary. Its warm and smells nice.
            Interestingly enough, the only thing I was afraid would happen, happened in the worst way possible. A horse was blocking the majority of the path ahead of us, and the only part of the path remaining was the five feet at the tail end of the horse. Which if you know anything about horses, thats the most dangerous place to stand. At that moment, I was content with hopping barb wire fences and getting my arms all cut up, rather than walking by the tail end of a horse in the middle of the night. My roommate assured me that it would be fine, and for some reason I listened. We walked past the horse without any problems, and walked back to his car for the ride home. I happily ate my ham sandwich and drank a bottle of water as I watched the headlights flicker through a small Spanish town. The highway unraveled in front of me, and another mountain in the Basque country was below my feet. While I only stood on the foggy, uproar of beauty for a short while — a thing that profound stays with you. Even when you drive into the city lights. Even when you pay attention to things that exist beyond the tumbling rocks in front of you: where the sound of your deliberate footsteps cant be discerned from the roar of life.                 

So be it, Ill hear the sound forever.


            I was sitting at home reading Tolstoy when my roommate came in and asked me if I wanted to go and hike Monte Txindoki. 15 minutes later I was in a car traveling out of the city, not really sure whether I was going to be in France or Spain by night fall. Ive learned to stop asking; Ive learned to stop caring so much; but most importantly, Ive learned how to movehow to gohow to travel and how to do it all so relentlessly.
            It was 11 degrees centigrade with down pouring rain. I wasnt sure why my roommate chose the gloomiest day of the week to go hiking, but that challenge was all the more attractive to me. After every hike, I buy a coke-a-cola and drink it while taking a hot shower. The refreshing rush of that sweet, cold sugar, the raucous sound of the shower tuning out the ongoing world, and the simple, exhausted thought of I did it.
            The whole drive to Monte Txinkoki, I knew that a cold coke-a-cola and a hot shower were waiting for me at home. On the drive we listened to the radio, the rain, and the familiar french voice spouting from the GPS, until we arrived outside of a quaint hotel & café in Zaldibia. I wrapped my camera as best as I could in one of my spare shirts before stuffing it deep into my bag.
            We walked along the road till we reached the arrow pointing us towards Txindoki. The rain was endless as we hiked out of Zaldibia, but we were still warmwe still had that remaining comfort. My roommate had told me during the drive that this wasnt quite as steep or challenging as our last hike to Monte Gorbea, but as we climbed higher towards the clouds and our clothes became more and more soaked with rainwe both knew that this hike was going to be much harder.
            Within 30 minutes, we had both fallen a few times. The mud and the slippery rocks were taking their toll, even with a slower pace. It was agitating, and little was said between us except a few french and spanish expletives. The greasy and jagged path dissolved below us into verdant, lush grass. Rain had covered my glasses lenses, and my jeans were completely drenched. I took a moment to wipe my glasses, and to stare at the blurry giant before me: the only way I could really tolerate the entirety of it.
            The wind and the rain had picked up tremendously. We stuck to the fence posts to keep our footing, but the true climb was undeniably soon. We didnt dare look beyond the few feet in front of us, where the rocks, puddles, and mud waited for us to make a faulty step. We reached a turning point in the fence-line, where a boulder reached out over the cliff into the clouded unfathomable. I was just hoping that my camera wouldnt get soaked, even after wrapping it in my extra clothes.
            And I think that moment, at the turning in the fence-line, is one of the best photos Ill never be able to take: where the world is expressed too fully to be expressed any further. The rain and clouds flew around me so quickly, that even I wasnt capable of understanding what earth pressured splendor had surrounded me. I dug my fingers into the snowy but green soil in front of me, knowing that with each minute, I was becoming more of the earth than myself: that my jeans had become the rain, that my face had become the mud, and that my fingers had become the very veins that supported the tree of myself, and whatever the wind might soon make of me.
While love claims to be so strong that it can merge our souls, Id like to think that nature is so strong that it can empty them: not with death or insignificance, but to fill us completely again with some further grasp at the earth and its personage. In that moment, I was little more than the earth and a clinging backpack.
            We never did reach the top; we knew it wasnt within us, or anyone, that day. We just sat in our flooded awe for a bit, and retreated helplessly along the fence-line. I think thats one assurance in life that I can always hold onto, the moments where Ive stood at the arresting limits of a single day. And I couldnt help but wonder what Levin wouldve thought, or Amory, if they had stood there like I did. An intelligent man has little to say in a beautiful place, but has an infinite beauty to say everything about it: I hope that maybe thats how I was for a few hours, and maybe with the progress of myself and each experienceI might widen it, openly.
If the world has taught me anything, its that nothing can be kept, but that everything can be felt; I hope I feel everything someday.