With nothing between her and the stark black sky and the twinkling stars, she slept peacefully. She never heard the gunshots or the yelling in the distance. She was deep in that mysterious world that people go to when their eyes are closed and their minds are open, she was dreaming…dreaming…drifting away. She loved that place, she went to it as often as she could. Then, suddenly, she felt someone breathing on her and grabbing at her. She couldn’t distinguish between the sleep world and the awake-world. Was this a vivid dream or a real life nightmare? The breathing and clawing continued, she immediately came to the conclusion that some creepy bastard was trying to molest her. She thought, “Fuck, this is it!” But then, the girl arrived in a half-awake-world to discover it was no pervert, but rather a mama bear and her two cubs. The girl swatted at the bears and wiggled about and made noises to scare them away. And as they trotted away casually, she still couldn’t be certain if she was dreaming or experiencing reality. She blinked hard and looked around with her flashlight and watched the bears disappear, this was real life…those were real bears!
A few minutes later a frantic man drove down a rocky road in an old jeep, whose glowing yellow headlights juxtaposed the last hours of darkness before sunrise. He told the girl that there were bears nearby and his fear was palpable. He told her that he shot off five rounds to scare them away from his camp, and that they were not easily deterred, they were aggressive. He told her of the dent that they put in his camping trailer. He asked her if she had seen them, and she told him what happened just moments before, to which he replied, “HOLY SHIT! Really? Are you ok? How did you not shit your pants? I would’ve shit my pants!”
The frantic man patrolled the area all night, but the girl merely packed up her sleeping bag and tarp…then went back to sleep in her car. Maybe she wished the bears had just eaten her so she could stay in the dream world forever. Maybe she wished they would come back.
Sometimes I don’t know what world I am in, especially lately. I often feel like I am residing on the pages of a strange book. Some days Mark Twain is the author, some days it’s Fitzgerald, some days it’s Hemingway, Emerson, Hunter S. Thompson, Krakauer, or Salinger. The old man who danced in the downtown neon lights that reflected in rain puddles on Leadville’s main street, who drunkenly told me he was one of the fastest runners of all time, was he an unpublished piece of Salinger’s writing that he typed up in his red-brick bunker? My Fairy Godmother who gave me a heart shaped rock in Lake City, was she real? The bartender whose glasses fogged up in the steam of the dishes he washed, who played a twelve string guitar, who wore a tiny sweater he took from the lost and found, and talked about consciousness and the magnitude of the universe and how the location of zippers determined if clothing is masculine or feminine…was he a figment of my imagination? Did I ever really ride wild mustangs, or paint cars, or put up guardrail? Did my spurs really ping-rattle-and spin as I worked horses in Utah? Did I really climb those mountains? Or am I just a character in a book, written by some phony hiding from the world in a red-brick bunker? How is it all going to end?
I’m stuck: between happiness and sadness, between reality and some crazy colorful dreamland, between being ok and totally losing it.
I climbed Sneffels yesterday and it was fine and beautiful and challenging. As always, the flowers in the valley reached out to me and asked me to stay. As always, the summit was amazing and the world seemed big and small all at once. As always, I met strangers along the way who told me where they were from and what mountains they had climbed. As always, as always, as always, as always, as always. As always, here I am now…lost and found… with a lump in my throat.