I took a few weeks off from work and my wife and I repainted, re-trimmed, re-carpeted, re-roofed our house. Also replaced all the interior doors and swapped out the water heater. Also I think I have finally quit smoking for good (12 weeks and counting). All of the high priority items that have been nagging to no end, plus some superficial aesthetic stuff to keep me motivated throughout. Great satisfying exhausting work in the midst of it, but now that it’s done I can no longer tell where I end. Once again, I’m left with this ponderous habit of spending what little free time I have left carrying 40lbs of camera gear along a scorched lake basin in order to take these candid stump portraits. Or of abandoned installments and structures. Or these grand landscapes that seem to demand creative appraisal, and then treacherously turn small, taciturn, and tedious in print.
Meanwhile, frailty, decrepitude. The trail inches hurtle past and where the landscape falls quiet so louder grow the internal reports about the state of my ankles, knees, back. Due to the bluster of home improvement all of my joints feel like knots in dry pine, my nerve endings feel like chapped lips in a keg of nine volt batteries. What’s weird though are my feet- they feel truly odd, not unlike the recent stumps on these pages, scrubbed of all life, pigment, and sense of actual size. I did a mild tour of the river last week that felt like the torture scene from Midnight Express, so I started keeping different types of boots in the car. The potato-sized river rocks here along the Elwha can be a purple, billyclub-swinging son of a bitch after a few miles with a 40lb pack. I started bringing along some 5lb Alico hiking boots but frankly I dread lacing these things up, it’s like stepping into a pair of kiddie golfclub bags. They’ve lasted 10 years, if only because as I usually tiptoe past them in a pair of featherweight synthetic hikers on my way out the door. But now my 2nd pair this year are blown out, and the Alicos are now kept right there in the tailgate; unavoidable, tumid, all formal like some classic but thoroughly moded school of thought, and right next to my camera bag. I might as well save money on shoes, because I can’t feel my feet anyway.
All this amuses me to no end; complaining is a great guilty pleasure- and being this tired can be oddly motivational, or at least a welcome distraction from the resumption of normal duties. But the allegory is not lost on me. There can be little doubt that recent priorities have been thinly designed to reinvigorate a sense of engagement to all the selfish routines of childless middle age, all the while providing some relief from the anticlimax of all the creative redundancies within.