Depressions in the Landscape


On the cusp of a vast depression in the earth, the water flows from slowly melting snow, gravity pulling it downward inevitably into a standing pool that will reflect the sky. Here birds and deer gather to drink, disturbing quietly the still pond. Here at one point in time sit some hikers, refreshing themselves from Nalgenes as they take a respite from 10 miles of rocks, mosquitoes, and uncertain unmaintained trails. The sun bakes the trees, rooted down below rock, suckling sustenance from reservoirs beyond the grasp of human immediacy. The clouds shift in thin rails across the blue, distant and cold in another atmosphere. A chickadee forlornly repeats its ancient refrain of hope, honed into a dirge of spring. The hikers speak of past lives in cities, jobs that stripped them bare of idealism. Office cubicles, running down alleyways and biking through intersections. Of women laid and never caught. Of families strewn on the rocks of Victorianism. Of drug exploration and growing up without expectation.

There is nothing that can compare to the silence of the sun beating off of a landscape as unhumanly manipulated as possible in this day and age. Other than the vast network of trails formed, and the overly rapacious chipmunks developed, and the condensement of trees from lack of fire. But to sit next to this collection of mountain water, and to drink, and discuss. There is nothing that can really be done except to eventually fall silent, and to observe. The hikers do just this, and a jet blows across the sky thousands of miles above, and a lizard scurries from rock to rock to find the declining naked sun, and ants are busy on the treelimbs above, transporting tidbits of food.

It really takes this distance from everything, sometimes, to fully almost realize just how intimately connected you are to everything. Like you have to step away, step far up on a mountain, step far down into some deep abyss, in order to detach yourself from what you normally conceive as yourself, to gather fully the larger context. To look beyond the chains that bind you to your circumstances to realize that the circumstances are only bound by what you can perceive. And that perception can only expand with distance. And retaining this afterimage as you descend back into civilization, the hikers take off their backpacks and throw them into the bed of the truck, and they start it up and disappear down the windy bumpy road into the messy, noisy interstitial madness of humanity. They meet up at a bar later that week and find that they are silent, unable to word their sudden difference, silent mourners nursing single beers in the half light of dusk on the patio, watching the sun setting behind a distant mountain range unseen.

The water falls without purpose, without creed. The mountains are raised by turbulent unseen depths. The stars shine out of death. Humanity is guided by what cannot be fathomed. By what cannot be mapped. By hearts as distant and beautiful as ice capped mountains melting into wildflowered meadows in the spring.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

3 thoughts on “Depressions in the Landscape”

  1. Nice story. Makes me want to start up hiking again! I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and used to hike in the Rincon or Catalina or see the Sahuaro in the desert… I was 17 then, now 51 .. man time flies.

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