I feel the way I did that morning in the hostel in Juneau, when Becky and I were starting our kayaking trip in Alaska in May of the year 2000, almost exactly 10 years ago. I feel that way, but on a different time scale. I woke up in the bunk, and didn’t know where I was. I’m sure that feeling has a name, but I don’t know what it is. I was temporarily misplaced. The most recent bits of history, which had gotten me there, were lost in my mind somewhere. An episode of micro-amnesia. Where am I? And then in a wrenching mental gyration, it all comes back. Like looking at a map and a compass, and suddenly realizing you’ve gotten turned around. It’s not that peak, it’s this one. That means we’re here, not there. And fuck, we’re out of water too. Now what?
Except with this it takes longer. There’s no map and no compass, and it turns out it isn’t even clear where you were going in the first place. I fell asleep in late July or early August of last year and woke up in January. Or was it Mexico? Groggy and confused and not in the same place I fell asleep. Like dozing off after half a bottle of vodka on one of the long radial lines of the Moscow subway. This is not where I got on the train. This is not where I had intended to get off the train. Осторожно, двери закрываются. (Caution: the doors are closing themselves.) And there doesn’t seem to be anybody else on the platform.
The experience suggests it would be best to avoid looking forward. Do not fool yourself. Do not become complacent. The future is not out there, not as a thing you can envision anyway. If only I had known. If I had known how short the time was going to be, I would have treated it differently. I would have been more present. Dear one, I am here for you. Except of course, I always knew it was finite. Entropy wins, and our temporarily coherent beams get out of focus. And that’s what makes it seem tragic. It is a prisoner’s dilemma. Nice, retaliatory, forgiving, and clear. Only winnable when iterated and (quite literally) indefinite. But I forgot.
So here I am, in the wilderness, some landmarks in sight. There’s Octagon Butte on the ridge. We go to the left of it. You can only get lost so many times before you head off a cliff in the twilight or run out of water at noon. Maybe better just to enjoy the wandering. The route finding. The mystery mushrooms and semi-frozen blueberries you eat along the side of the muddy trail when you can. The gnawing, catabolic hunger you endure when you can’t. If you can enjoy those things, then wandering is not the same as lost.
But whatever you do, don’t fall asleep again. There are snakes.