Kurt’s a hippie and I’m a Buddhist flunkie. Climbing stairs in Madison, IN.
It’s bizarro-world in the Druzgal house lately. Kurt seems to have one toe dipped in hippie, and I am more skeptical. In recent bouts I’ve been sad or lonely, frustrated or inflamed. Taken individually, they’re easy to explain as homesickness, loneliness and lack of good friendship here in Madison, frustration over being limited by this punctured flat tire, or as lingering grief and a touch of depression.
But Kurt and I have different theories. Kurt says it’s the chemicals lingering in my fat cells; chemicals injected for six months into a much younger and naïve Marla by an over-eager gynecologist. I say it’s just the hormones of a woman approaching midlife. Or maybe, maybe it’s that Buddhist thing I’ve been brooding over since my trip to Viet Nam: my wants are insatiable; to desire them brings suffering.
With the tire still flat from the screw I ran over, I let Kurt drop me off at the trailhead this morning. It takes me a bit to reach the railroad tracks, and I fall into a rhythm of dwelling on these moods as I hike.
To be fair, I understand Kurt’s rationalization about the chemicals, and I’ve heard it from a holistic doctor I see. I understand their argument. The leuprolide injections did many things during those six months: stopped my metabolism; put me through mock menopause; damaged my short-term memory with decreased blood flow to the brain; and caused early bone loss. But it did not, in the end, spare me from surgery by shrinking its intended targets.
Kurt and my hippie doctor think that this caustic substance pocketed itself in the 70 pounds of fat created during my metabolic drop, and is, from time to time, releasing itself into my bloodstream, especially as I sweat hard on these recent morning workouts.
I think Kurt, like the hippie doctor, is hitting the hookah bar a little too often. I’m sticking, surprisingly, to the conservative camp: change of life is a proven hormonal wrecking ball; lurking leuprolide assassins seem to be the realm of science fiction. Still, these swings sure do feel like the same reactions my body had to the drug all those years ago…
This was the argument taking place in my head as I climbed “the stairs” this morning, a dilapidated set of concrete steps from a discontinued railroad track to a very much in-use state hospital and penitentiary.
The woman who told me about the stairs gave me the parting warning, “Don’t go alone. It’s kind of creepy on that path by yourself. It like it’s haunted or something, or like some animal’s going to attack you, or that some serial killer is always lurking.”
Of course I’m going to go alone. First, I don’t believe in ghosts. Believe me, I have tried to see ghosts. Whatever there is, or whatever there isn’t, I’ve never felt it. Second, man has killed off most of the predators in this area big enough to pick me off. And, well, if I’m going to go, I’d rather be taken out by a mountain lion than by cracking my head as I run away from a skunk. Third, serial killers stalk their victims. They aren’t opportunists. Otherwise, they’d be one-time killers, because it would be too easy to be caught killing on a whim. Sheesh. Doesn’t anybody watch Dexter? 😉
“Follow the railroad tracks until you see a number 10 at your feet. Look left and you will see the foot of the steps.” Awesome. Even the directions to find this staircase sound like an old scavenger hunt.
As I’m leaving houses, walking silently along the tracks with only a little knapsack of journal and camera, blueberries and water, an old pick-up slows down and crawls past me. I see a bearded driver at the wheel, staring at me.
I don’t change my pace but just keep walking, not looking at him until I hear him driving off. I’m pretty sure he was more weirded out by me than I was by him. This is, after all, small-town Madison and I am some crazy lady with a scissor-made sleeveless t-shirt heading off onto the railroad tracks.
It wasn’t long before I found that number 10.
Thankfully for my knee, somebody else had beaten an incline circumventing the steps themselves, so I took another look toward the opening in the trees where I came from, and stepped off the tracks and into the woods.
I didn’t see another soul, corporeal or incorporeal, during my climb. The only presence besides mine was a doe, who stared at me for a short time before catching my scent, snorting and running off. I cracked a Facebook joke about the skunkass I kept smelling, and part of me hoped to actually encounter one, misadventure always being good for a blog entry.After only a few flights of steps, separated by easy-on-the-knee dirt in between, I found a resting spot on a concrete landing. It was perfect. I wanted to just sit writing in my journal for the rest of the day. I didn’t need to climb any higher, because this spot was ideal.
But what if there were something better? What if by sitting here and writing the day away I would miss seeing something special or not have the same feeling of accomplishment as I would by reaching the top of the steps?
I put my journal away and kept climbing. I saw another doe, which could as easily have been the same one, as the deer paths were crisscrossing the one I was on.
When I finally reached the end of the path, seeing the bright light of day and an end to the trees, I hoped to step out to a spectacular view. The “Rocky” theme song played in my mind. I was going to get my arse to the top of these steps and fist pump.
As I dragged my right leg one step at a time, leading with my stronger left one, I didn’t have that feeling of accomplishment. These last steps led to the driveway of the state hospital and the state penitentiary. (Yes, I considered the irony of that, given my recent states of mind after these morning workouts.)
I couldn’t help thinking about that perfect writing spot far below me and about my life right now and the Buddhist take on insatiable desire. Yes, there is something physiological wreaking havoc on my system right now, but how much am I allowing myself to be overwhelmed by it, in not letting go of my own cravings? How much suffering is self-induced because I don’t see when to sit with a perfect moment, like that writing spot, like this amazing time of our traveling life?
There are always things I won’t have, and the only thing hard about not having them is the wanting of them. I can’t force every person I meet into friendship, no matter how compatible I think we might be. I can’t resurrect dead parents or dead babies, change the past or force the future. But I can fall in love with the life I have, with one moment of writing bliss, with not knowing or achieving the latest goal in a series of endless wants.
I can fall in love with the journey itself.
Oh no. Oh dear God no. Why does it always come back to Miley Cyrus? Now I’ll be singing “It’s the climb” for the rest of the night. And it will probably be stuck in there as I re-climb those stairs tomorrow and see if I can make myself stop and enjoy the ideal writing spot, halfway.