Reflections on the American Flag
I have been remiss in posting on mountainzone.com as I’ve been wandering a bit. A couple weeks ago I returned from a bit of travel to Europe, Africa and South America, successfully climbing Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua as well as taking in the cultures, people, and sites of the areas in which I traveled, specifically – England, Tanzania and Argentina.
I wanted to share with you some post climb/travel thoughts - Reflections on the American Flag as a way to touch base again. I hope you enjoy. I’ll be back at you again soon…
Post Climb—Reflections on the American Flag
My climb on Aconcagua in Argentina involved doing two things I enjoy the most when I travel; engaging in very remote or rural areas, and, doing something in these areas that requires significant mental and physical fortitude—in other words—doing cool things in cool places.
Terri at Kilimanjaro.
I’m quite aware that I experience a constant, altered reflection of home due to my travels abroad. This reflection is heightened when I’ve moved through less fortunate countries than the U.S.—which would include most places I wander. If home represents physical comfort and ease of use, and we choose to go out and do things in depressed areas that are the antithesis of ease of use, then that contrast will roar loudly when we return to home base.
Climbing mountains requires not only substantive physical strength and stamina, it obliges one to live in some of the harshest environments on earth for sometimes extended periods of time. Just sitting, doing absolutely nothing, in an enclosed tent in rarified, bone dry air in raging winds and sub-freezing temperatures surrounded by incessant spindrift, can test the mental resolve of the most stalwart of humans. To actually climb in these elements is a consistent examination of the unknown, because we never fully realize what hand altitude, weather, or our bodies will deal us in any given hour.
Some may consider that we regress as humans when we climb on mountains.
I experience them as an evolution or freedom from the constant, constructed world that we have created. On a mountain we are stripped naked of the man made world which we are used to existing and we are required to establish another reality. This “other” experience and existence is our own, unique conception.
On a mountain there is no point in negotiating the constant of your bed back home, or heating system in your house. Nor do we generate much thought around how we present ourselves visually to the mountain world. Combing our hair or tidying our clothes has no reflection on whether we will survive the mountain, therefore these trivialities fall away. We are free from them.
What is relevant are the basics that even today far too many humans struggle to acquire daily—food, adequate shelter, adequate warmth. As nature helps in stripping away our “stuff” we have time to ponder what that stuff really means in the first place. On a mountain we covet our sometimes meager efforts to be warm when high winds repeatedly rip the zipper open on our tent door. We let go of the desire to be clean as we don the same smelly, dirty shirt we’ve been hiking in for two weeks. And we adapt to lack of calories as we spill our bowl of soup on the tent floor and are short of the energy to generate another.
Some may consider these experiences regression if their definition is based on an affluent man made world, but if juxtaposed to basic human needs aren’t these issues at the top of the pyramid of established healthy humanness? The act of existing on a mountain requires grave acknowledgement to those things in life that, as Americans, many of us have in abundance.
This deprivation gets our attention, asks us to reflect contrasting views of life as humans. And perhaps if we look a tad further, we realize we have an opportunity in this deprivation to truly appreciate what we may have in our life back home—that a warm home with a roof, running water and a plenty of food are not items to be taken nonchalantly.
I am stunned each trip abroad at how fortunate we are in America. Astounded. Amazed at our privilege to live comfortably and our freedom to choose to go after what we wish in life if we decide to acquire the knowledge and motivation to make our dreams happen.
Daily my thoughts go back to so many I have witnessed who do not, or can not, have these human basics because of their social status or the state of their community or country. As a woman in a world that tends to still generate effort to suppress women’s forward movement these facts never get past me and I feel fortunate that I choose to change up my lens color and reflect again and again. That evolving reflection keeps the brain sharp and desirous of dream seeking.
If the hardship of physical enduring continues to hone my reflection of home and my desire to seek the ultimate dreams in life – I’ll gladly take that adversity. If sitting through a storm on a mountain in South America makes my latte back home taste that much richer, or, the hug from my brother feel that much warmer, I’ll choose to engage in nature any day.
And if foreign travel creates the knowing that back home I have the freedom to go after the means it takes to put my dreams to life, I will forever glance on the essence of the American flag with a bright light and with even more respect. Hardship softens immensely when its retrospective reflection is so sweet.