Friday, September 21, 2007

Open Spaces

I have lots of thoughts knocking around in my head today. I read a review in the Times about Sean Penn's movie Into the Wild, which was a book first (that I haven't read) about Christopher McCandless, a young man who set out after college on a quest to explore America. He made it up to Alaska, where, for a number months, he attempted to live off the land. He tragically starved to death, and the shell of a bus he lived in became a shrine of sorts, unchanged since his death.

This is why Mr. McCandless strikes a chord with me:

The review describes the film as an homage to America's Transcendentalist past, comparing McCandless to a Thoreau figure, specifically in the lonely quality of his quest to get close to nature.

When I was younger our family visited Walden Pond, and I left a stone -one of many- in a pile to honor Mr. Thoreau. Why does retreat to nature represent a quest to come to know oneself and one's place in the world? That's what I wanted for myself as a romantically-inclined 16 year old clutching her pebble. But maybe it turns out that I'm not built to retreat, not built for simplicity. I was wondering this walking through the crisp, organized hallways of my new workplace, listening to my heels click clack.

I remember standing on a hill in Northern California looking over undulating golden hills and a huge blue sky and feeling, I don't know what I was feeling, immense, maybe. I don't feel that way much any more. But, what if we could all go back to that immense moment (before life got wonderfully complex and full) and we knew where to proceed from there so that we could feel that way forever?

Now I look at the photo above, taken on the Isle of Skye (where I trekked to recover that immense feeling) and I realize that everything I do now: the job that requires heels and fills my bank account, the printmaking, the going out, the searching, the yoga books about breathing and balance--it's all meant to get me back to that spot. The spot on the Isle of Skye overlooking fields of thistle, that spot in California, the woods where Thoreau strolled. In a very very roundabout way.

That way I don't have to be so jealous of whoever made it to that lonely trailer in the Highlands.

Told you I had lots of thoughts today.

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