Featuring a slug
“If you asked, I could tell you when I started to think about what I wanted to make. It was just by accident. In fact, all of this has been a long, drawn-out kind of accident. Maybe wisdom, when someone feels they have it, is just to realize how accidental life ends up being. And because of that, how beautiful life can be.”*
My birthday is 2nd of August, coming up. Reflecting back as I always do this time of year, I think of how I’ve moved so many places, left so many faces and people behind, moved on for what seems like my whole life. I counted it once, and I think I've lived in almost 40 different buildings at this point. This patchwork kind of life has never seemed to quite add up. So, I decided long ago to start writing about it, to define for myself what matters, what's important, and where I go from here.
Last summer and fall were unique so far in my life. I proved that I could do exactly what I wanted to do with myself every day, hiking around 300 miles in the rockies, and tree planting into early winter. I bore the consequences, good and bad.
This summer I find myself not traveling, taking responsibility in other ways, which are surprisingly just as hard.
Life is mysterious, as are pain and happiness. I have no answers, except to trust myself. Trust myself and hunt down what matters to me. That's about what I've figured out so far.
The painting in the image above is a print I asked for on my birthday. I guess I feel kinship with the slug, painted by Rosetsu Nagasawa. But what wisdom from a slug? Well, slugs can only move along so fast. They double back, and seemingly go nowhere. Yet they survive, and even thrive. That, more or less, sums up myself too.
A thought came to me last summer, as I walked through endless flower and boulder filled alpine gardens, and I saw and heard no people for four straight days. I meditated at the head of the Gros Ventre river as it blasted straight from a melting snow cave down a hillside filled with red, white, and blue flowers—I passed through groves of giant pines later that day, dodged flies and bugs, ate dinner and brushed teeth at 5pm a few miles from camp to respect the bears, and then rambled on to a quiet ledge above a valley to sleep. As the birds came in to rest on the branches of the trees that night, another day came to an end. And for some reason, a thought came to mind that I never expected amidst such inexplicable beauty, of the cycles of morning, noon, and night. I thought of the summer, winter, and the fall, and of birth, living, and death, with the snowy peaks and wildflower filled meadows as my backdrop—yet the question was: What was it all for?
The most human question. The most basic question. The question that appeared long ago when words were still new, and long gone ancestors laid on their backs at night, staring at the same stars that float overhead nowadays: what is it all for? Maybe, this was the first question. And maybe it will be the last.
In a strange way, I feel like I am never going to answer it. But as I draw nearer to certain rhythms, and give in to the mysterious wisdom of a wandering impulse, and let go by inches of what I believe to be myself—I feel drawn to something that makes perfect sense. As if that question could actually be answered, one day, just by living a certain way. And: the life itself would be the answer. A slug-like, doubling-back, confused, wandering, and beautiful life.
* This is an excerpt from a manuscript I am currently working on
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