The Mount Shasta Diaries: A moment to breath

Photo by Michael Louie on Unsplash

Song: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Thievery Corporation

“There’s no COVID on Mount Shasta”*

I’m camping on Mount Shasta this week.  Early in my stay here, I met a man in town who had a smile that stretched from ear to ear. His handshake lingers longer than most, and he’s just one of those people, you kinda just wanna give a bear hug to. Handshakes don’t really happen in the Bay Area anymore, and I imagine that’s the case for much of the world where people are following social-distancing norms. So when he reached out his hand, I was taken a back at first. I grabbed it and we shook. It took me a moment to process how abnormal it was that a handshake was so refreshing. Welcome to 20-fucking-20.

I asked him how he’s been handling the pandemic, and he said he’d been doing his best to stay careful. When I told him I was camping up on Mt. Shasta, he responded with “There’s no COVID on Shasta.”  At first I thought, “now that’s scientifically impossible, what sort of madness is this?!” But there was something that also resonated very much with that statement. And for some reason that statement brought me back to Pee-Wee’s big adventure when we discover:

No COVID on Mount Shasta? I can hear my public-health-professional-sister’s intense reaction to this statement. Love you, Nadia. Was it just the pure desire that I wished this statement were true, or was there a deeper meaning here?

An accidental social bubble 

Arriving at the campsite, there were a few really attractive spots. All quite perfect from spaciousness, to surrounding views, to the ratio of tree coverage to open sky. However I didn’t feel good in any of them. Something didn’t feel right. Every time I went to one of those sites and put my bag down, my chest would get tight and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Made no sense. Would I have to leave Panther Meadow?

There was a tiny site  that I decided to try out. I put my bag down and my chest relaxed. It just felt like where I needed to be. It didn’t make sense, but I was in the sort of mood where intuition was more important than reason. So I took the awkwardly tiny campsite and got myself settled. There was a wisdom in that feeling of ease in an otherwise illogical choice. Because this put me in the presence of some individuals that would really impact me during my time here.

Over the last few days that I’ve been on this mountain, I’ve became part of a spontaneously formed community of campers. This sort of community expressed itself in a way that really isn’t happening anymore, at least in my social circles back home. Four strangers found each other on accident, combined campsites, and their vibe attracted me and separately a young woman who was also camping solo. The two of us were like extended family to the original four, but we felt at home nonetheless. All of us from different parts of California, traveling solo, for all kinds of different reasons, somehow all found each other. Anyone who knows me can tell you, I don’t easily find like-minded individuals, but when I do, it’s party-time! (spiritually speaking).

So to be instantly in the presence of 5 other like minded strangers, was nothing short of a miracle. And there we were sharing ideas, songs, food, stories and poetry, and I felt as at home as I’d be with my own tribes of friends scattered around the globe, and I was able to go back to my own site for much needed solitude in nature. It’s this idea that being out in nature, leaving the cities, the concerns are much, much different. We’re here trying to stay fed, hydrated, engaged, and active. We were in outdoor spaces so there’s less of a concern of shared breathing that happens indoors. And once that was established in my own mind, I was able to let go. What a wonderful break from the endless conversations on pandemic. It was a handful of days of teaching each other different ways of moving, thinking, and being.

For a moment I could relax and be normal for a change. I had forgotten what I left behind when I took the road up that volcano. And I wonder how I can keep some of this normalcy in heart and mind when I return.

Give yourself space… again!

To my fellow city dwellers, especially those who are sheltering alone: take breaks from urban life. Find a rock, a beach, a desert, a mountain. Sit your ass down and breath, and remember, you’re more than a vehicle of doom. You’re more than an unwilling potential (or actual) host of the insidious coronavirus. You are much more than a mask or anti-mask wearing type of person. Instead, remember all that you are and all you will do. Remember where you come from. Remember your family, your community, your friends, your purpose on this planet. Give yourself moments of normalcy to remind yourself of all of this. Stay safe, help keep others safe, but do so while being healthy in all aspects. It is possible, it is difficult and it is something we must strive for, lest we royally fuck up the culture we’re creating for the future. Stay safe, but please stay human.

*I don’t know if this footnote is necessary, I hope my blog readers are thinking individuals. COVID can spread anywhere, whether you’re on a mountain or you’re in the city. This is was an interesting and provocative quote, that gave me something to think about. I am not in any ways claiming that COVID cannot spread on a mountain, sacred or otherwise. 

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