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#5006 - Friday, August 23, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz

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  • Jerry Katz
    *#5006 - Friday, August 23, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz* *The Nonduality Highlights*
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 23, 2013

      #5006 - Friday, August 23, 2013 - Editor: Jerry Katz

      The Nonduality Highlights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/

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      Excerpts from I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail by Gail Storey (Mountaineers Books, 2013)

      "Gail Storey was definitely not a hiker, never mind a camper. But when her husband, Porter, leaves his job as a hospice doctor to hike the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, she refuses to let him go alone--even though the prospect of leaving their comfortable Houston home, hiking twenty miles a day while popping anti-depressants and hormones, and sleeping outside for six months terrifies her. Carrying Porter's handmade ultralight equipment, they sizzle in the Mojave Desert, nearly drown fording a swollen river, kick steps up icy mountains in the High Sierra, and stumble through the lava fields of Oregon. With every step and switchback, as the trials of the trail test and deepen their relationship, Gail and Porter each walk into the question Who am I? Gail, confronting dangerous weight loss and her mother's prolonged illness back home, feels herself irrevocably changed by life on the trail. She faces down a mountain lion and fierce alpine storms, alternately frightened by nature's power and inspired by its profound force--finding a wisdom that three master's degrees and a life in the city never taught her. This journey of harrowing hilarity and reluctant revelations will be loved by active hikers (appendices include details of their unique ultralight gear and other essential how-to information), fans of female adventure stories, and those just as happy at home kicking back with a glass of champagne." -from Amazon.com

      These excerpts are taken from three different scenes contained within a much larger story. Further information is available at the links:

      When we were first dating, I went to see a psychotherapist so I wouldn’t screw it up. I didn’t want to fall into my old pattern of advance/wrong man/retreat. But the therapist, in his deep, morose voice, said of Porter: He helps the moribund to diiiiie. It wasn’t the encouragement I was looking for. I ran out and never went back.

      Day in, day out, throughout our marriage, Porter had absorbed the pain of dying people and those who loved them. He became the steady presence that allowed for the stark reality that everyone who lived also died. I became the steady presence at home that allowed him to rest, eat, prepare to bear witness again.

      No wonder he wanted to walk through the cycles of nature--death, birth, growth. No wonder I wanted to walk with him, toward nature, each other, ourselves.

      I took back two liters of our water and headed in a run up the trail before he could take them away.

      Help me, I cried to the emptiness of the sun-baked landscape. My heart was a rock I wanted broken open, my thoughts a tangled underbrush I wanted scorched to the ground. I ran until out of breath, out of space and time. I forgot who I was, or where, until rounding a switchback--I stopped.

      Sauntering toward me was an enormous cat, tawny gold as sunlit sand. Her muscular shoulders rose and fell, her haunches swayed side to side against the solid rock of the mountainside. Her long tail flowed behind her, catching flecks of light. The world slowed to the rhythm of her movement.

      Suddenly she saw me. She raised her sculpted head, looked through me with her green-gold eyes.

      We contemplated each other.

      Gaze, rest, gaze. Rest, listen, rest. Listen, wait, listen. Gaze, listen, be.

      Finally, she didn’t so much break as dissolve our gaze. She turned her massive body gracefully in the narrow space of the trail, back toward the way she came. Then she was gone.

      In the absolute quiet, everything was light and clear. The mountains fell away. All there was was the loveliness of silence. I existed to listen. I was the listening. 

      ~ ~ ~

      The next morning we pried open our socks, frozen and stiff as boards, and forced our cold feet into them. Our boots were frozen too. Even the laces were stiff, hard to tighten and tie with our freezing fingers.

      After cold fords through Wallace and Wright creeks, we arrived at swollen Tyndall Creek. It looked even more dangerous than reputed. I held my breath as Porter crossed first to test the power and depth of the current.

      “Undo your pack’s hip belt,” he called from the other side. “If you lose your balance in the current, shrug off your pack so its weight doesn’t drag you downstream.”

      “And lose my pack?” I hollered back.

      “Better than losing your life.”

      Frozen on the bank, I stared into the deep rushing water.

      Finally I stepped in and lurched drunkenly even with my trekking poles. Facing upstream for balance, I slowly sidestepped across. But my foot got caught between two rocks on the uneven bottom, and the rapids knocked me down.

      First there was white, the cold foam of swirling bubbles. I sputtered and gurgled, fought hard to get up, but I couldn’t. I thrashed harder, and the water gave way beneath. My legs flailed above me. I sank, butt-heavy.

      I landed softly on the bottom, half-reclining on my pack. I watched my sunhat rise above me to the surface. It was bright up there, but deep down here, everything was blue. I was drowning in blueness. I bounced in the upwelling, downwelling. I slipped into a blue-shift of time running backwards. I saw my mother, leaning into a troubled smile.

      But someone was parting the air. He was a shadow, head to water, leaning from the sky. I looked up through web-work under water, saw the fine lace of trees, sunlight latticed through their branches. The world was halved by sunlight.

      Porter plunged in and dragged me out, body, pack, and all. I sliced the air with my icy bones. We collapsed on the rocks. Water poured from us in rivulets. A waterfall of snowmelt myself, my teeth chattered like clacking pebbles.

      I sat there reeling with stillness. Inside, I felt like the river, a wider, deeper version of myself. My skin tingled from the bracing cold, my eyes opened at the brightness of everything around me. Nature, much more powerful than I, let me live.

      ~ ~ ~

      “Who are you?” Porter used to ask in our early days together. “Who are you?” I would ask. The loveliness of the question wove its way so deeply into our life together on the trail, we no longer needed to ask it. We couldn’t even know our answer, we could only be it.

      Who am I? reverberated through me now, all around, through the airport public address system. The airport was full of us, our eyes meeting in this question. In our collective awareness of even the question, I moved from fear to an odd peace.

      I hung around LAX with my backpack for a midafternoon flight. It was delayed, and later I floated around the El Paso airport for my connecting flight, also delayed. From the trail, my body had spit me out, into this, right here, the wordlessly full and strangely peaceful now.

      ~ ~ ~

       I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail by Gail Storey (Mountaineers Books, 2013)

      further info:

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