Remembering Wilderness

Love it as you lose it: a lesson learned from Parkinson's Disease

Posted Sep 14, 2018

Brian H. Peterson
Trees, Stones, Water and Light #11, 1980
Source: Brian H. Peterson

There are no words. None. I try, knowing that anything I say takes me farther away from what I desperately want to remember.

Thirty-some years have come and gone, but I can still see the puffs of trail dust stirred up by my hiking boots as I trudged up the canyon,  Digging through my closet the other day, I ran into the last pair of boots I bought--barely used. No dust, no telltale smudges of pine sap, no wear-and-tear on the soles. "Maybe I'll build a little shrine, get them cast in bronze," I muttered to myself. Instead I tossed them under my desk, where I can catch a glimpse when the mood strikes. Yup, there they are. A concrete connection to the days of fifty-pound backpacks, fishing rods, camping stoves and campfires,  

You have to love what you're losing. It's the only way. Non-attachment, the Zen serenity of joyous union--it's not the path for me. Nope. I'm attached to this crazy beautiful world. I want more, not less. I want my legs to work the way they used to work, when they just, you know, worked. I want to be there, not  remember being there. I want to tear the living flesh out of every day on this earth, chew on it, take it in, and grow. Become. More than I was before, but always, always the same tree with deep roots that find the deep waters. 

Wise voices tell me to adjust, to gracefully acquiesce to the slow destruction of the tree that is me. It's normal, they say. We all lose  what we're given. No. NO! Honeyed words uttered with narcotic kindness, deadening the anguish of loss, but at what price? The words I want will take me into the very center, the living paradox of crucifixion and resurrection, where pain is a thread woven around and through the fabric of life.

It is the only way. For me. Love it as I lose it. 

So, I remember. The whisper of the wind in the swaying pines. The dull droning roar of the creek. The late afternoon sunlight, when every leaf is a glittering transcendent jewel. I remember how I loved to clamber up the smooth, rounded rocks when the sun had sunk behind the mountains. I was a pair of eyes in a void looking directly into endless emptiness. But I knew that someone, something was there. And here. Ancient. Impersonal. And yet, in ways infinitely beyond my puny imaginings, aware..

When the wind swept down the valley, it sounded like a billion-year-old voice, whispering gently of cosmic dust slowly congealing, of mountains gradually rising, of unnamed oceans, of dinosaurs and trilobites. Every creature that ever lived, and ever will live, whispered in that wind. It sang of a vast nothingness, an emptiness inside emptiness. It sang of love, from the stones beneath my feet, from the invisible molecules of air and water and earth. A fullness inside the emptiness, touching every rock and blade of grass, every particle of every atom of living matter.

Let it continue to touch me.

Brian H. Peterson
Forest Light #11, 1992
Source: Brian H. Peterson