Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting Back To The Basics

"The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

                Fire burns the cartilage of my upper nose. The burn, the intense heat does not throb like the impact of an elbow from a school yard scrap. I instinctively reach up with my right hand to examine the damage and get ready to accuse the nearest thing accusable.  My arm struggles to find freedom in the restricted sleeping bag that my body’s huddled in, my fingers sting on the tips while they bounce between my body and the sleeping bag on its path to unrestricted movement. I know this sting and it reminds me of the thousand bare hand snowballs moulded in my youth. Bare hand because it always made the perfect compacted sphere while the warmth of your hands melted the surface as it quickly refroze into the most lethal schoolyard projectile that made even the toughest bastards drop to their knees with a square hit to the eye. Finally freedom after a small struggle and the numb finger tips surprisingly add relief to the burn of my nose transferring the little heat they hold to the soft tissue that helps me smell. Relief because the burn is not the warmth I expected but the pain of the extreme cold. What the hell is this shit? Am I still in Australia or has hell frozen over in the past few hours? I wipe the frost from my nose and recede my head into the sleeping bag allowing my breath to help warm my face, Il need oxygen eventually but for now its comfort and that comfort sends me back into a light sleep.

                The sun burns at the north east side of my tent lighting my surroundings, I jump up and open the door as if trying to catch a burglar prying a TV from a wall. To my excitement I catch a thick layer of frost covering my kayak and personal belongings still lingering in the shade. I feel as if I’m too sneaky for the sun and found the culprit to my burning nose before it disappeared with the morning mist. We arrived in the shadows of darkness the night before and erected our canvas shelters in hopes that we could hide from the increasing cold.. We couldn’t. I emerge from my tent and get the first glimpse of our surroundings and starring me square in the face is Australia’s tallest mountain. Mt. Kosciuszko. I stare at the snow caped peak in disbelief that me the Canadian who travelled to the opposite side of the earth to escape the one thing that’s currently biting at the cracks in my lips, Cold. Cold. Cold. SNOW! I hate it but that malicious grin grows upon my face knowing I’ve packed the same clothes I took to the beach on Christmas Island. Ill prepared and uncomfortable is my new highlight to waking up in the morning. You sick piece of work.
                I’m hungry and I’m still cold from the miserable night I’ve just had, I muster the energy to find a seat directly in the sunlight, slowly gaining energy through photosynthesis. Warm clothes are on my to do get list and Il leave this photosynthesis business up to the trees. It’s not for me. A hot tea boils away in the stainless steel pot. Tea is not just a luxury but a necessity for warmth and filler to trick my stomach into thinking the two slices of bread that lay before me are going to be enough substance for breakfast. It’s not but I tell myself it is. I’m more gullible than I thought. Buckle up junior. I’ve got two and a half months of this ahead of me and I haven’t even started yet. Embrace the pain and forget the luxuries, hot showers, soft beds, and personal hygiene are a thing I refuse to believe that I ever had. You don’t miss what you never had and I love this. A job, responsibilities, and civilization are hardly a memory stored in hibernation as all I can think about is how many days can I survive without food, how many hours can I lay motionless in the frigid water before my organs fail, how many strokes of my paddle will it take me to reach the salty waters of the ocean. Thirteen weeks, 2500 kms, an incomprehensible task but I’m a dreamer as you know and I don’t intend to wake until my face kisses the salt of the Southern Ocean.  

Wish me luck.

Every beginning has an end

Every beginning has an end, every heart has a pulse, every spirit has a flame, have you ever felt it?

Tears are a liquid that rarely ooze from my glands. The warm balls pooling up gathering in volume at the bridge of my nose, like a riot mustering its strength to unleash, the tears break away accelerating down my cheeks and dissipate into my ginger beard, a sign that you’re no longer able to control your emotions, a body’s way of relieving the mind of its misery. It’s like my first love all over again, I’ve given more than what I have, invested my every fiber into the people, the places, the life of this island. A lustful frenzy at first sight, this place did things to me. My flight is booked and my departure is inevitable. Every beginning has an end, and my end is near. God I hate this part of being a backpacker, building up a life to abandon it at its peak, forfeiting on relationships that are just about to blossom. I look around and I see a part of myself written on a chalk board, on a shelf in the supermarket, in the sand at the beach, in a clearing along a forest path. I’m spread out far and wide not as an object but as a memory. Memories eventually fade but like the smell of your grandmothers cooking well beyond her years of death, some memories last forever. My imprint here has been much larger than my boot.
As the legend of the phoenix goes; with death brings life. That’s the only thought loosely bonding my composure together as I strap my tent to the bottom of my backpack imagining the array of forest canopies we will be sleeping under in the next few months. Come on son, pick yourself up and stop dragging those heels, it’s time to get back on those feet and walk away from a place with your pride and dignity. Easier said than done I tell myself but that only last a second before I realize what a little bitch I’m being. In the past three months I’ve hurdled so many barriers and crossed many more lines I had wished never to have even contemplated. No serious harm done, I’m none the smarter but plenty wiser. I’ve done my deeds and crossed that bridge, did my damage and cleaned the mess. It’s been a hell of a ride but my clock is ticking, it’s time to spread these wings and do what a backpacker does best and disappear.

Farewell beautiful island, I’ve enjoyed crawling into your core and exploring what I never expected to find…


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Losing Control - Substance Abuse

“In order to find control you must lose it, thus you will understand”  - Yours Truly

Face down, hands holding my sorrow from draining to the ground. Ashamed of myself, It’s come to the point where I need help… Yes but that was last week and here I find myself again. A dehydrated fragment of who I am laying hopelessly in my bed fighting the sickness I brought upon me. I said I wouldn’t and I did, I lied, not to my mom, not to my boss, not to my best friend, but I lied to myself. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have failed your own morals, broke your own rules, sacrificed every bit of self-respect you once had. Alcohol was my ammunition but I was the shooter, I have no one else to blame, I’m not about to take the easy way out, I never have. Excuses are tools people use to hide the truth, but I know I have a problem and I’m not going to deny it. I need to fix this, fix it before it’s too late. I built this and I broke it, now I must fix it. Destroyed.. fix me, fix me, fix me.

               My entire life I have been in control,  that was until now. I knew my limits, I knew my boundaries and the boundaries of others, it didn’t stop me from pushing them but I never crossed them and now I have. The grass is browner on this side,… I know this. Alcohol, drugs, life, death are all things I’ve witnessed but rarely experimented with. Given such utilities for destruction and expected to use them so responsibly is beyond me. It’s been over a month now and I’ve been shit faced drunk every weekend time and time again after telling myself I wouldn’t, purposely making plans in an attempt to distract my weakening mind and failing miserably. The subconscious knows between right and wrong, the present conscious does not. Knowledge is achieved through reading books; experience provides  the wisdom to write them. Once an addicts always an addict, some people are blessed with it, some people acquire the curse, I’ve seen both. Addiction is something that can never be removed and only replaced. I have an addictive personality and I know to use it to my benefit, I’m addicted to adventure, adrenaline, insecurity, hope, and life as it is… alcohol lingers in my genes and in my blood, I’m educated but not experienced. The problem with being addicted to adventure is that each and every one needs to outperform the last, in this case I feed myself to the lions and hope I escape, I offer my weakness and test myself with more than just a story, this leap of faith doesn’t just leave me in a mangled mess of unopened parachute but a long life a suffering and disappointment. Feed me fear, give me the thing I’ve always used but rarely abused, I need to know the bad to appreciate the good.

                I need to know, I need to see, I need to feel. It all comes together now when it’s broken down into a simple thought, the urge to have something you don’t. I have run marathons and craved the pain in my legs. I walked a thousand kilometers and craved the hunger in my stomach, I drove 289km/h and craved the speed, I have drank a pint and feared the next, I knew better than all the rest what this could do to me more harm. I say the hell to that and face your fears, dig deep, test yourself like no other test. Fill me, drug me, test me. If I’m alive next week I will have failed, If I’m awake next week I will have succeeded in beating the largest substance killer in the world.

           I’m headed into a fight blind and restrained. Dig deep, breath hard, stiffen your jaw, expect pain and anticipate success.