"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads.
Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it."
Rosalia de Castro*
[Werner Herzog on Mount Erebus. Photograph: ThinkFilm/Everett/Rex Features *]
Sweetie and I watched an incredible documentary this morning. Encounters at the End of the World is an Oscar-nominated movie about the Werner Herzog's journey to Antarctica. It is hard to say which was more incredible - the landscape, the people, the work being done or the photography. It's one thing to be a trained diver/scientist/vulcanologist/physicist/biologist and another to be the guy who is picked to film everything that is going on in minus degree water/weather.
Here I am fussing about the tales my son tells me about his adventures in Mexico when there are other mothers in the world who watch their sons swing from a rope over a roiling sea of lava into an active volcano crater. Is it adventure or stupidity that causes people to step off a perfectly sound mound of ice into a hole that goes straight down beneath an ice cap? As amazing as that was to see, the whole time I sat on the edge of my seat, I knew there was another person doing the same thing with a camera strapped to his shoulder. Is this kind of daring a hold-over from fighting off saber tooth tigers?
I haven't had too many real adventures in my lifetime. In fact, I try to steer clear of things that other people get all excited about. Like shopping at 5am on the day after Thanksgiving or shooting of fire crackers on the 4th if July. I have yet to figure out what is "fun" about either. When my then-husband drove me (5 months pregnant)through the Pyrenees mountains in a car that had neither a seat that locked into place or, might I add, seatbelts, I feared for my life. He called it a driving exhibition. As I've grown into middle age I've become comfortable with my "chicken-little" persona. I don't need to risk life or limb to prove myself to anyone - especially me.
However, give me a good sale at Joanne Fabric and I'm there! Like the Antarctic scientists peering through microscopes looking for clues to the beginning of life, I can get lost in rows of fabric hoping to find just the right print at just the right price.
Another place of pure adventure for me is the inside of a good bookstore. I like them all. Large chain stores or small independent book sellers. I like the smell and feel and atmosphere of a place that is lined with book shelves. In the movie today a scientist lay on the foreboding ice flow with an ear to the ice listening to the symphony of sounds seals were making several feet below. Bundled up with only her nose and ear open to the elements, the woman seemed oblivious to everything else around her, even the frigid temperatures. Plopped on the floor in the children's book section of Barnes & Noble I can lose myself in a similar fashion. The picture books draw me in. But I also enjoy the sounds: mom's reading Dr. Seuss rhymes to toddlers, Dad's helping beginner readers sound out words, or kids begging for one more book. The cacophony of sounds appeal to my adventurous side!
Adventure like beauty must be in the eye of the beholder. Some jump out of helicopters or into blazing firestorms to save lives and feel the rush of adrenaline. Some climb mountains while others while others are content to read about their experiences. Some photograph the exploration icy underwater canyons so people can sit in the comfort of their living rooms and marvel at the wonders of this world.
Every great adventurer, I think, needs to have someone back home waiting to "hear all about it." That person may wring her hands in worry or be grateful for the solitude while the globe-trotter is gone. But once home, sitting on a big woolly mammoth hide placed in front of the fire the cave dweller listens to the sound of adventure satisfied to listen to the stories and gasp at all the appropriate moments.
To each her own,
*Personally, if I don't know where the road leads, I'm not going down it!But I liked the quote. ~m