Having conveniently forgotten my tent poles last weekend at Buckeye camp ground, I needed to make a trip down to Bridgeport to collect them. Dozing off at home after returning from my initial camping trip, I suddenly sat upright in bed, visualizing the abandoned poles just to the right of the campsite. How does memory work like that? Given the age of the tent and the exact size of its poles, it is not a sure thing they could easily be replaced so the next morning I called the Forest Service and asked if someone could rescue them for me. I was most grateful when a ranger by the name of Scott made a special trip up to Buckeye to get them. He gave me a call a few days later and said he had retrieved the poles and they would be at the ranger station to be claimed whenever I made it back. Armed with a six-pack of Bass Ale as a thank you gift, I scooted out early Friday morning and was down to Bridgeport by 10:30 or so. Gift dropped off and tent poles reunited with this Pole, it seemed like an excellent idea to take a day hike up to Green Lake, a beautiful, glacially carved lake, whose trailhead is about ten miles from the Bridgeport Ranger Station via one seriously dusty, bumpy dirt road.
Not to get too historical on you, but one interesting tidbit about Green Creek and Green Lake is that they were the source for one of the first hydroelectric plants in the U.S. The voluminous waters that tumble down there from the Sierras generated the electricity that powered the electric motors of the 20 stamp Standard Mill, some 13 plus miles away in the gold mining town of Bodie. This being one of the first such plants, the engineers who designed the project tried their best to construct the electrical lines from Green Creek to Bodie in as straight a line as possible, because it was not yet known if an electrical current could take a sharp curve and not run off the wires.
Up at the trailhead, I got my pack out, boots on and went through the checklist of “just in case” scenarios, making sure things were reasonably accounted for in the items I was carrying. Satisfied with all that, I noticed a park ranger’s truck over in a corner of the parking area, so I went over to say hello and let him know where I was going and when I was coming back. In the “It’s a small world” category the fellow was none other than Ranger Scott who had so graciously picked up my hobo tent poles earlier in the week. And in the “It’s an even smaller world” category, we swapped hiking tales, discovering we both knew one of the park rangers who worked for the Forest Service in Bodie while I was working there for Phelps Dodge 38 years ago.
The trailhead for Green Lake is situated at 8100 feet. The three miles up to the 9200 foot lake is a moderately strenuous hike with the air getting a bit thin but oh so pristine. There are old souls on this trail- some very large and weathered pines that have seen many a harsh winter. They have such presence. You find yourself wanting to sit down with one and ask for its life’s story. The aspen will be greening out in the next two weeks but for now the greenery is provided by the pine trees.
Winter’s snow is receding fast but on this weekend it was making a stand at Green Lake. The trail was fine up to the lake, but once crossing the swollen creek where the waters flow out of this Sierra gem, there was a foot of snow still hanging on, obscuring much of the trail that continues up to East Lake and Summit Lake. That was fine by me. I got over to the edge of Green Lake, had lunch and parked myself on some large flat rocks that were sloped at just the right angle to stretch out on and make like a sleeping lizard. It was pure back country solitude- no one else on the trail, no one else at the lake.
Returning down the trail after a suitable lakeside nap, I was absorbed in the immensity and detail and clarity of place – the definition of the granite cliffs, the many fractures in the outcropped rocks, the swaths of pine trees and contrasting snow fields. All this and more combined to spark a gifted moment. From time to time, a feeling born at depth comes forward to reassert itself in my consciousness. It is a koan, humorous at first. A seemingly ridiculous argument, it effectively stops me in my tracks, taking my current point of view and shifting it a sudden 180 degrees. It is as if a skilled debater powerfully convinces me to abandon the position I was so adamantly defending and moves me to align myself with the opposite side.
That koan is this: There are too many individual things for there to be individual things. The body-mind then feels that koan as the utter conviction that it is impossible for every “thing” seen before me to be singular, individual items. Simply impossible. Nothing can create that many separate things. There can’t be that many individual things. It is an illusion. It is the illusion of many.
The limiting perception of what is a boundary is upended. Although some “thing” may appear to have a definitive shape, the boundary that once defined that shape is now seen for what it is – simply a more solidly perceived edge. Nothing more. The edge loses its confining solidity and becomes permeable, like a sponge. It no longer can contain the essence of a an item and relegate that essence to individuality. Things don’t disappear, but suddenly there are no boundaries housing separateness. There is only this space of perfect arising. The sense of I that is felt as a personality becomes just another softened boundary. “Me” is another aspect of this arising moment. No more, no less. No inferior, no superior. No one against many. The illusion of many gracefully released.
Indeed, a gifted moment. More than a moment actually, as that state continued for much of the remaining hike down the hill.
By the time I made it back to the Subaru things were more a less back to “normal”, although the doors of perception are now a little more wobbly on their hinges. Not a bad thing after all. We all need a little Aldous Huxley in our life from time to time.
Thanks for taking some LIP from me,