I awoke feeling the crisp, dry air in my nostrils. There is the light of the fireball on the horizon. I can hear nature – simultaneously loud and silent as what seems like every other being is alerting the other of the new day’s light.
My normal morning routine is broken. I have taken this life for granted. Where I am, there is no man or woman, no friend or foe, no signal. I am here to find something – a bridge they say. No. I am here to find something I have both never seen and yet had long mislaid.
In my life’s experience, people show you who they are by their actions, and in many ways, their lack of action. People will act on a matter that they like while committing no action to something they don’t like at all.
Now, an argument can be made that a person can choose to act on something they don’t like – such as protesting a social policy. I can argue that on a deeper unconscious level, a person ALWAYS acts when they like to act, even if what they are acting upon is abhorrent – imagine the appreciated fulfillment a soldier feels having saved a life despite any offensive measures taken.
At this moment, now on earth and heaven, I do not know what I like to act upon or not – Amnesia maybe. In my journey into the Arizona wilderness, I will seek a physical place marker on a map, a direction on my compass. To find out who I really am, I must look within myself to recover my will to act.
Face Anxiety and Despair
A little over a mile into my multi-mile hike through this dry landscape, I could hear the buzzing of an insect near my left shoulder, then my right shoulder as well. I could feel the buzzing of something large and weighted around my right ear, then my left ear as well. I am being followed by a curious creature. The sky’s light is brighter than before. There is no more darkness, no shade to rest. Now, there’s no more noise – just silence. It’s actually TOO silent. I’m not being followed; I’m being stalked! The buzzing. The buzzing is back. But I hear more – a swarm, maybe? YES, IT IS! It’s getting closer! MURDER HORNETS?! I need to turn back right this instance! What a mistake I’ve made!
In my path back home, I see someone in the distant rough walking my way. Relieved to see another person, I wait for this person to get to me.
“Hi, Good Morning”
“You headed to the bridge too?”
“I am so happy to see you. It was so quiet and I thought I was in some real trouble”
*smiles. “Where we’re going is pretty far from here. It can be hard to do it alone”
“Yes, I think it actually would be easier if I didn’t walk alone. You walk ahead. I’ll trail behind at my own pace. Thank you”
Funny, I don’t hear any buzzing anymore.
Who am I Really
I have lost track of time. I wonder if my mysterious friend has found the bridge. The sky’s light is pretty high now, directly above. The path is unclear. There are two, no, three ways forward. I am alone again. My backpack is so heavy. I need water and rest. This sand is soft. These footprints are not my own. These foot prints. The FOOTPRINTS can tell me where to go! I examine the earth. The footprints here feel firm while those for the other path feel soft. Fresh footprints, maybe? Fresh footprints. Listen to me now – Fresh footprints. Who am I Bear Grylls? No. Bear KNOWS who he is while I do not. I need my backpack. It’s time to get back on course.
It’s so heavy now. This bag didn’t feel so heavy before. There are no more footprints – just rock. My obscure companion must have climbed. I will climb. My arms hurt. This light burns. There is a plateau just above. I will rest here. Oh, look at all of those bushes. No wait, those are tree tops.
I have traveled so far, so high, yet I am still not there. I can’t even see the end. This is far enough. But before I go back down, let me see how I could have made it even higher. Maybe the bridge is up there. The rock face is far too steep and narrower that I’ve already climbed. My backpack is so heavy. If I tried this, I would have to leave it here. There’s no other way—time to go home. I feel relief. I feel – shame.
The light! A flash, and now it’s gone. But in this fleeting moment, I caught a glimpse of who I really am – I’m a coward, plagued by the hardships of a road long past, a boy who fancies himself man, a child seeking an adult for welfare after scraping my knee. My belly is filled with ignominy. Fat, I grab my backpack to head down, having accomplished my goal.
Beyond my sight, a voice inscrutable.
“Hey! That you down there!”
“I’m at the bridge. You’re almost there! Climb up and follow my voice.”
The Will Unlocked
“A FLASH! No, a FLAME! In my arms, my back, my body – a FIRE. Without pain, without fear, I gripped the rock wall tight and climbed my way out of perdition.”
My God, This is certainly high. As it seems, I did not need to leave my backpack after all. I see something on the ground – fresh footprints. Ahead – the bridge. There’s something else yonder – my mysterious comrade. Lastly, I have achieved the final aspiration of my spiritual journey – the will to act.
This tale is a real account of my trek to the Devil’s Bridge in the Upstate Arizona Wilderness. While liberties were taken for the sake of storytelling, the catharsis I experienced will change me for the rest of my life. I faced my anxiety, depression, and self-image, finding a novel way to achieve my goals while coming to peace with my past.
Life is a journey that is scary and difficult. But it’s easier when you have the companionship of another walking in your direction. And while we travel in life, we’ll collect trinkets, memories, and stories. Over time, this accumulation will begin to weigh us down. It is certainly easier to leave things behind to help our journey. However, those “things” are a part of us – kept for their evanescent sense of value. Dropping a part of ourselves at the first sign of trouble is a faux high, that once faded will reveal that we never really unloaded anything at all – we can only bury the truth within ourselves. To be at peace is to become strong enough to carry the load, to follow the path of those who have successfully walked where we’re going. We are mightier than we realize if we allow ourselves to be mighty.