Friday, September 4, 2009


Sometimes in life we have headaches. Sometimes in life we get toothaches or backaches. I'm going to invent a new word and call it "soulache." Soulache is a feeling I get from time to time when I am camping alone. Whenever I feel it, it's always late afternoon or early evening. It lasts a few hours and then it is gone when I awake in the morning. Usually it's brought on by camping in a lonely or uncomfortable spot. I'm not sure what constitutes a "lonely" or "uncomfortable" spot, I just feel it. Soulache is one, or a combination of feelings which include loneliness, happiness, awareness of life and death, exhaustion, sense of awe and beauty, anxiousness, gratefulness. I guess in a sense, many emotions all at the same time.

The first time I can recall having soulache was when I was hiking in Maine with my Walden classmates. We had hiked Mt. Katahdn as a class one particular windy, cold, and cloudy day. The only thing that could be seen from the top was a wall of gray fog and clouds. At times it was hard to see just a few feet in front. Anyways, the day after hiking Katahdn, I was planning on visiting some nearby lakes and taking it easy. It was a crystal clear, crisp autumn day. I started my hike around 10:00 AM. Just before I entered the woods and the trail I was planning to take, I happened to look over my shoulder at Katahdn. Since there was not a cloud in the sky, the summit was in clear view. "The views must be amazing up there" I told myself. It took a couple of seconds to make my decision. "I've got to climb it again." The only problem was that at the base of the mountain, there is a sign that warns hikers not to start their hike after 10:00AM because of the length of time required to hike to the top and back. I guess hikers have become stranded or lost in the dark in the past. Since it was only a few minutes past 10, I figured I could make up and back just in time. As it turned out, I was indeed the last hiker of the day to start the climb. As a result, by the time I reached the top, I was the only one up there. I remember taking a few minutes, sitting on a rock near the edge, and looking out over the Maine wilderness. The sun was just a couple of hours from setting and I remember watching a hawk or turkey vulture riding the thermals. I was feeling all of these emotions at once, exhilarated, tired, uncomfortable, happy, scared, lonely, grateful. I wanted to show all of my classmates what I was seeing but was obviously unable! After soaking in the moment, I began my descent. I felt privileged to experience the summit of Katahdn alone, but I wanted to rejoin my classmates. I remember stumbling into camp well after sunset and having to dodge dive bombing bats on the trail for the last mile or so. It was nice to sit around the fire and share with my friends what the day was like.

Here's a journal excerpt from August 7, 2009:
I've got a bit of "soulache" tonight. Said goodbye to some trail friends and am camped in a lonely place. Not even the beautiful pines or the song of the waterfall can cheer me up this evening. Not the comforting warmth of the campfire nor the warm glow of the setting sun reflecting off the mountain peaks before me. Not the wildflowers who bid their good nights as the sunlight begins to fade. Like an afternoon thunderstorm, there is beauty in the soulache. Sometimes it seems necessary to keep the soul appreciative of all of the good things in life. This storm too shall pass.

No comments:

Post a Comment