Flying Over Yosemite
June 1st, 2015
After a restless night of sweat, bunched covers, confused stumblings to the bathroom and a minor episode of sleep paralysis involving a mountain lion, I boarded a plane back to Portland. I flew out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, where for three days I lounged in a veritable castle full of friends, former roommates from school. This was a little over a week ago. We hovered above Laguna Niguel, drinking heavily and eating well. It was too little time spent with people I spent perhaps too much time with last year (this post is dedicated to the Valley family, and the hope that we will coalesce somewhere far away next year…)
I have become an expert at nodding off through taxi and take off. I stir awake minutes before the drink cart arrives, a bit parched, eager to knock down the tray table and spread both flaps of a book across. This time was no exception, though instead of my standard ginger ale, I asked for a cup of hot water and a skewer of lemon. It’s the best.
I gazed out the window. Snow-capped peaks strewn like lilacs over the gnarled, brown expanse. The High Sierras. I couldn’t stop snapping photos through the dirty pane. Not so majestic from such a height, but austere. Soon, more familiar forms emerged: enormous exposed rock faces, verdant creases carved by thin rivers, waterfalls, bright white blockish clusters, tents maybe, wait – it’s Yosemite. Yosemite, where almost exactly a year ago I hiked up the Upper Falls with Holly, where we passed fifth graders lugging packs twice their size, stopping every few switchbacks to tear through gallon bags of trail mix. Where I celebrated my 22nd birthday, my graduation from UVA, and awaited another long Virginia summer.
How much has changed since then? Am I more or less anxious about the future? Have I betrayed grand expectations I held in the past? Has some opportunity passed me by, some person slipped through my fingers, have I found complacency enjoyable or lost something great in the process? These questions did not reel through my head as Yosemite scrolled past in miniature below. Motivations, fears, responsibilities assumed the breathy forms of a good dream, ephemeral, a momentary furrow then a lilting, permanent release. Somewhat euphoric, yet refreshingly unimpressive.
A while back I started writing a poem (yet unfinished) about my cousin Alex’s wedding at a camp in the Adirondacks, and this stanza I still enjoy:
There is still the body, a deck chair’s suggestion of the body,
how several facing outward from the roof
of a boathouse means the end
of worry. A gust of wind,
Truly I don’t believe there is an end to worry. Anyone would be naïve to think otherwise. You can fake it, though (the end, that is), like whoever lives in this house:
Worry also has no clear introduction. I was a worry wart as a kid, a real pain in the ass on road trips or at the check-in line, but none of those feelings were ever sustained for more than a few noxious complaints. At least, I hope not, I may be coloring my childhood as a bit more carefree than it really was. I was definitely mindful of the threat of nuclear annihilation, after I watched the opening scene of Terminator 2. Maybe I should worry more about that now.
Flying over Yosemite, I thought about how many people I know and love. I thought about how many times I’ve made an ass of myself and been forgiven by those same people. So far in my life I have not been gut-punched by loss of life, and I am grateful. I thought about how sensible it is to merely continue, how impossible it is to pause the movie of your life (but also, how simple and final). People mess up, fall down, continue. We find ourselves equipped with new stories, the old ones stay good, the old ones get better, we learn to impress ourselves with the familiar and then seek the unknown.
What will I be doing come August, next fall, on my 24th birthday? I don’t know. But I’m not too worried. So in the meantime, here are some pictures of flowers I’ve been snapping with my new phone. The roses are dying right about now, but they were fun while they lasted.