Is Your Journey Story Still Alive?

Well guess who’s back writing on his blog! Yes that’s me. I fully realize that the last time I wrote something on here was last November, like four months ago. So there goes my promise that I had at the beginning of the school year to write every week. But here we are now and there’s no looking back that will change anything. I’m on here writing again and that’s all that really matters.

A few weeks back I had my spring break. No, I didn’t go down to Florida to partake in excessive amounts of alcohol as last year’s infamous movie might suggest. (In case you were wondering I hated that movie and stopped watching halfway through, but let’s not digress.) Instead I went back home to Colorado for a few days of relative peace and relaxation.

Since I grew up the mountains were always just a few hour’s drive from me, a place that I always took for granted. I have always been able to look West towards the horizon and see the mountains looming up from the ground, forming a great barrier across the earth. Sitting in the airplane on my way to Colorado, I looked up from what I was reading, The Hobbit I believe it was, to see the great city of Denver plastered in front of those looming towers of rock. The city seemed so small in comparison, like humans were just beginning to understand how to reproduce the greatness of the natural world. It was a view that I wouldn’t dare to capture with my camera, for some things are better to be left to their own beauty, for others to see with their own eyes. No picture that I took would have been able to reflect that astonishment of seeing a city I had grown up so near, with the buildings towering above me, in such a different light. Or maybe I was just too lazy to grab my camera from under the seat in front of me, but I’d like to think the former.

And then the sun, the birds, the crisp mountain air! Standing in the snow, packed over a foot deep, with the sun blazing down on me, where 45 degrees feels warm. That’s what I felt just hours after stepping off the airplane. How extraordinary it is that in such a short amount of time I went from 30,000 feet in the air, traveling at great speed, to standing on top of one of those mountains with my feet planted firmly on solid ground. Looking back I am amazed at the possibility of this, a feat which has only become possible in the last century.

Just last night I finished reading The Hobbit. It was not for the first time and definitely won’t be the last, but the journey that a small creature goes on is just simply amazing. The journey of Bilbo Baggins took over a year from when he set off to the moment he set foot back into his home, under the hill. In that time he had a great deal of experiences but they weren’t just at the destination of his journey, but throughout his entire travels. Much of that year in which Bilbo was away he traveled, whether it be on foot or by pony, or even soaring on the backs of the Eagles for a time in between, but still he traveled, a journey in the true sense of the word. And this he did without the use of airplanes or automobiles, where he could have covered hundreds or even thousands of miles in a single day. The pace was slow and there were hardships along the way. While many of these were magical happenings, brought on by the appearance of new creatures, that would very likely not happen in our world, what the company of dwarves and the hobbit learned in their journey was what allowed them to complete the final task. It was especially Bilbo who grew from the hardships he faced. In his hobbit hole he was content, more of a gardener than a burglar really, and he had little taste for adventure. Would that hobbit have ever been able to face a dragon alone? Or devise a cunning plan to enable the escape of the dwarves from the cells of the Elvenking? No. That was the new hobbit, the Barrel-rider, who came home with treasures beyond his wildest imagination.

You may say that these are just stories, and maybe they are, but stories and books allow us to look inside the human conscience, to see what others believe makes us human. Knowing that Tolkien had the ability to create any world he wanted, with whatever story pleased him, why would he create this, The Hobbit? And the Eagles could have just transported the company of dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in one fell swoop, but that wouldn’t have made for a proper story. As you may now see:

There lived a hobbit in a hole in the ground. Not a dirty, nasty hole full of worms, but a hole containing a house such as in any civilized person would live. A company of 13 dwarves and a wizard arrived at the hole and created the greatest of messes, so maybe after they left it was a bit less like the hole at first described. The dwarves and the wizard, along with the most reluctant of hobbits flew from that hole on the backs of the Eagles to a mountain, far off in the distance, shrouded in fog. A journey that would have taken months to complete on foot took merely three days, and that long only because the dwarves longed for their feet to feel solid ground, and for the fact that it is rather difficult for a hobbit to cook his second breakfast riding on the back of an Eagle. And so they came to the Lonely Mountain in search of gold long forgotten since its acquisition by a dragon. Only by sheer luck was a townsperson, living in one of the villages near the mountain, able to kill the dragon. And so, because of this, the dwarves received the gold they had long since desired. The world was once again set right and the rivers that were said to have flown with gold did so once again. After saying goodbye to the dwarves, for they stayed to guard their newly found treasure and to create a new life for themselves, the hobbit and wizard rode off on the backs of the Eagles. The hobbit was deposited back at his home, while the wizard flew off to some unfinished business of his own.

From that I hope you can see that a story without a journey is barely a story at all, at least not one of much merit. And while much more may have happened in the periods before the long trek towards the mountain and then before the journey home, most of The Hobbit is filled with descriptions of the journey and that is the story that truly matters. 

That is what I realized flying on the plane. One minute being in the skies, like riding on the backs of the Eagles, to the next standing on firm ground, hundreds of miles from where I started. What an amazing piece of machinery an aircraft is. The ability for something that heavy to act almost weightless is astounding, and the ability to travel that it brings is just as amazing. To get across continents and oceans in the span of a day is something that continues to astound me. Air travel, and other powered means of transportation is something that has changed our world, and brought humanity as a whole closer together. By no means am I suggesting that it should be gotten rid of and that we should walk everywhere we go. In these times that would just be completely impractical.

When I looked out of that window and saw the mountains rising over Denver, I looked back at the people in the plane, all engrossed in their own lives. All except for the smallest children sat without a glance towards the world outside of that metal cylinder hurtling through the air. The children were still amazed for they haven’t fallen into the clutches of society yet. But for the rest of them, the adults, they worried about their day ahead, what had gone wrong the night before, what they would have to do to make their lives better. Those are all things that must be worried about some time or another, and maybe the gentle movements of an airplane riding on smooth air is a good time to think those thoughts, a repose from the bustle of their lives, but would they feel those thoughts, have those fears, if they were to look out the window and see just how powerful nature was?

As a race we have lost the ability to simply travel, to take a journey to help us find ourselves. We simply go from Point A to Point B and then on to Point C without ever taking the time to examine the infinite points in between. We go to school, then to college if we are so privileged, and we find a job, work to live, or even live to work, all moving towards what? The sweet sensation of retirement? To finally have the ability to do what you want with your life, no longer held down by the ties of society? It’s in those last few years that we truly live, when we see the world, and how society fits into it. And then, just when we realize the error in our ways, how we’ve been going about it all wrong, we move on to another life in the heavens above the clouds.

What a dreary story that is. It wouldn’t be something I would want to read to my kids, should I ever have any. So why should our life, our story, be any different from that of our dear Mr. Baggins? We may not meet dwarves and goblins, elves and wizards, or even giant Eagles to let us ride among the stars, but we may meet that someone, a friend, or accomplish that goal that could only be done because we stopped to take a breath.

Many times in life we are met by a fork in the road and sometimes the choice is simple while other times it may be the most difficult thing we have had to do. But the next time, instead of taking the direct route from Point A to Point B, why not take the route that takes you through Point C, and all of the infinite points in between? As Robert Frost famously wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There may be times when taking the direct route is the more appropriate action, like when going to class for example, but when there are a few minutes to spare, and the air is fresh, and the grass is green, what’s there to stop you from taking the path under the trees? For in those moments you’ll be the happiest you can be.

And so, standing back on the mountain, the sun against my back, a slight breeze coming in from the North, and the snow beneath my feet, I hiked on glad to be in nature, surrounded by it, engulfed, for as I embraced it, it welcomed me with open arms. Though my original plans of being outside for as long as I could were not all that strictly followed, I was still able to take a few hikes, and grab a few photos even if they weren’t of the rock formations I was hoping for. Sometimes the world forces you to go down a path that you would rather not have gone down, and there are those who would complain the entire way, but I embraced the change, after losing the fight of reason and logic, and I made the best of the new path that I found myself on. In the end it worked out marvelously because I was able to get some of my favorite experiences from that deviation.

My spring break was a success. I didn’t do exactly what I had planned and I didn’t stay off of the internet for as long as I had hoped, but it was a journey. It wasn’t anything big or life changing that happened over that week, but just being able to rejuvenate after a difficult week of midterms was enough for me. Now, after a week, I am finally back in the swing of things! And now I’ve got a new blog post published as well. I can’t promise that this will be the new start to what I had expected to be a weekly blog, but I do hope to do so more regularly. So till next time, whether it be soon or far into the future…

Peace and love,

Marco

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