“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”
-William Blake (Proverbs of Hell)
William Blake seemed to be a firm advocate of embracing our desires and our freedom, which is absolutely an ideology I’m willing to adopt. I’d like to imagine that the proverb above goes deeper than the idea of being so consumed with a task that you have no time to worry about things. Instead of a task – with its connotations of being something burdensome or unpleasant or necessary – I’d like to think the bee is consumed by something beautiful, exhilarating, fulfilling. The bee hovers over a flower until it has taken its fill, then moves onto the next. For me, each flower is a unique experience and, like the physical beauty of flowers, their existence is ephemeral, but memorable.
My takeaway from this particular proverb is that Blake encourages us to fully immerse ourselves in the moment – to live in the present. We should open ourselves to experiencing every moment without distraction or fear that we aren’t doing what we think we’re meant to be doing.
I find I’m at my happiest in nature, and I imagine that’s the truth for most people. This summer I had booked a flight to Seattle with my friend Lauren, initially with the plan of hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. After her debut camping experience about 6 weeks before we flew over, however, she decided that she hated camping, and upon discovering there were no hotels along the trails in the Washington wilderness, started dropping hints that she would bail on the hike. Considering the hike was my main motivation for visiting Washington, I wasn’t about to let the prospect of being a lone wolf deter me, though in a strange place – where bears roam free – I did want some company.
Against all my friends’ advice, I met someone from Portland on tinder, and arranged to go on a 3 day camping trip along some of the trails in Mount Rainier National Park. We met in a bar in Seattle the night before, armed with a map, and tentatively planned our journey (which we had to reconsider the next day due to campsite availability). We left the next morning and spent the following three days walking the trails, and generally existing in some of the most beautiful alpine meadows with the snowy peak of Mount Rainier as our backdrop, and wildflowers, animals (including bears), and the low hanging haze from BC wildfires surrounding us. Although it wasn’t the original endurance death-march I had mentally planned, I couldn’t have asked for a better hike (or hiking partner) for the limited time I had, and I relished being disconnected from the outside world completely, being around so much beauty, and getting to know someone new in an intensely concentrated way. The whole thing could have been a complete bust. I could have been pushed off a cliff or eaten by a bear or strangled in my sleep. But I choose to believe that people are inherently good, and so far that has served me well.
After Mount Rainier, and some time in Portland and the surrounding area, including a day hike to some of the waterfalls along Eagle Creek (with my now-established hiking companion), I flew south the Houston to visit my family. For the first time in several years, my brother was clean, and it was so comforting having the one person who has had the same life experience as I have had be present and lucid and calm. I told him about hiking in Washington, and he mentioned that he wanted to do more stuff like that, so we decided to get up early one day and drive out to Enchanted Rock. Apart from his piece-of-shit car breaking down 10 miles outside of Austin, having to hire a tow truck, and being forced to hire a fancy SUV because there were no smaller cars available – it was a fun day trip.
When I initially began having issues with my sight last October, I began a string of tests to try and determine the cause. It was mentioned that there was a (small) chance that it could be the first presenting symptom of multiple sclerosis, but ‘that was getting ahead of ourselves’. However, further tests revealed lesions on the white matter of my brain, which meant even more testing. Last month, upon returning from my holiday, I had follow up MRI scans on my brain, as well as a spinal tap, which I thoroughly do not recommend. Yesterday, September 11th, 2017, 11 months after this whole ordeal began, I was given my results: my body is an asshole.
Although I was fairly convinced multiple sclerosis would be the eventual outcome, it still came as a shock to hear it confirmed from the specialist, and I’m not entirely sure I took in everything she said after that. I do remember mentioning my plans to leave my job in April and thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail, terrified that she would in some way try to dissuade me from doing it. Thankfully my conversation with her only reinforced my gut feeling to go for it, and she fully endorsed my view that the disease is unpredictable, and manifests itself differently in everyone, and that it would be nothing short of tragic to sit around and wait for something to happen at the expense of experience. She did drop into conversation that I’d probably have to pay a little more for health insurance, but what is the value of money?
So what’s the plan now? I’ve bought a one way ticket to San Diego at the beginning of April next year. I’ve upgraded my tent to something roomier and more lightweight. I’m off to hike the Great Glen Way in just over a week. And I’m seriously looking into dropping bank on a personal satellite messenger and locator beacon, mostly to stop my parents and friends from worrying, but my secondary reason would be for safety. If my legs decide to stop working when I’m days away from civilization, it might be useful to be able to contact people to let them know. Overall though? I’m pumped about my upcoming adventure. It may turn out to be a catastrophic bust, but that’s a future-me problem. Besides, as Blake says, “Exuberance is beauty.” And it looks like I’m using his proverbs as mantras right now.