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. I’ve learned to stop asking; I’ve learned to stop caring so much; but most importantly, I’ve learned how to move—how to go—how to travel— and how to do it all so relentlessly.
It was 11 degrees centigrade with down pouring rain. I wasn’t 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 warm—we still had that remaining comfort. My roommate had told me during the drive that this wasn’t 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 rain—we 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 didn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 I’ll 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 wasn’t 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, I’d 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 wasn’t 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 that’s one assurance in life that I can always hold onto, the moments where I’ve stood at the arresting limits of a single day. And I couldn’t help but wonder what Levin would’ve 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 that’s how I was for a few hours, and maybe with the progress of myself and each experience—I might widen it, openly.
If the world has taught me anything, it’s that nothing can be kept, but that everything can be felt; I hope I feel everything someday.