I first apprehended the hold the mountains had upon me while living on the Winward Coast of Oahu in the winter of 2011. A few weeks prior I had been up in The Green Mountains, inland on the mainland, where I lived a life of privation and seclusion. My recluse neighbors on the adjoining ridgelines were accustomed to this life, but I was racked with the weariness of a long winters within a wind-whipped cabin, where a ubiquitous monotony was rooted in the dark pines that stood over me while I watched a world of ice, rock, and bark sleep in the cold. There was always the ache of the cold, weighing upon me like a lead vest, as I stumbled through the morning light scrambling to find wood to tend the fire that threatened to expire during the few hours of dulled sleep I seized beside the wood stove. Anxiety, euphoria, loneliness, and dread: I drank my fill during the slow crawl to solstice and the slower death march towards equinox, while I endured the strain of living alone in a natural landscape that made no allowances for emotional weakness. Often enough, in weariness of being in this state, I longed to retreat backwards, following the New York City water supply and I-87 southward towards Jersey, my birth place.
Now, in Kailua, I was sitting on a beach blanketed in warm surf and moonlight. The palm trees shrouded my seat upon their root systems; the sand at my feet a welcome alternative to the dry, dusty ice and snow I habitually tracked in upon my icey wood floor. There was warmth in every breeze here, a seasonless consistency rocking you in its womb. There was everything that I had conceived as being a constituent of a tropical paradise, the everyday acts of existence were studies of the book of Genesis; never in my wanderings there, was I far from gardens. Yet it was here that my mind escaped towards the mountains, seeking new investigations and journeys back in a barren place, where I could only sustain outdoor efforts for less than an hour. It was one thing to romanticize about Vermont as a New Jersey hipster, it was another thing to long for it after finding myself on the easiest of terms in Hawaii. But I know that it was the uneasiness of life’s harsh context in the mountains that drew me there . It was the land’s ability to push me, rather than simply sustain me, that beckoned.
Returning from where I had just fled would be to resume a challenge, and to stay there for years would test my resolve. But I was unexplored, I felt, and Vermont was one of the few places that I had found on this planet that illuminated a pathway within my own understandings of myself. When the horizon is without movement, one can read clearly within, and the comprehension of what was inside of me, or, more meaningfully, what was not within me, was the gift that would render every insufferable moment meaningful, and keep me from the realms of needless masochism.
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