Life is but a day:A fragile dewdrop on its perilous way From a tree’s summit. John Keats
A slight shimey of the back tires sends an abrupt, destabilizing pang through my body - a feeling akin to being suddenly woken in a dream by the seeming reality of falling off a cliff. Before I can react, a patch of ice has thrown The Captain into a glissade perpendicular to the road. Unable to rectify our trajectory, I let out a desperate cry as the front wheels clip the grassy median. Thrown into a savage roll, each impact shatters glass and tears through steel. Oddly, time appears to slow between rotations and I find myself helplessly aware of the situation - a consciousness intermittently broken by the violent crunching of The Captain’s metallic body. Finally, we come to a stop in the median, hanging upside down in our seatbelts. Deanne unbuckles, leashes dog (who seems to have been added to the scene after the fact) and crawls out of her window. My head is wedged between the crushed roof and the back of my seat, my hair mangled in the fragmented layering of the ceiling. I consider for a second the need to cut the locks, but with some contorting I manage to extract myself from the carcass of the beast. Deanne is in shock, but unharmed; dog seemingly untouched as well is defensively barking at a trucker who has come to help. I have a slight twinge in my neck that doesn’t seem serious so we both refuse medical assistance. I wipe blood across my face from a small scratch on my nose caused by a shard of glass adding visual drama to the already chaotic scene. Our belongings are exploded over the snowy ground. Adrenaline pumping, we gather what we can waiting for the tow truck - a bizarre interval of time trying to organize and make sense of the turmoil.
When I bought the truck off an itinerant musician, I questioned him about the large American flag decaled on the rear window, giving an already imperious vehicle a touch more redneck flair. He explained that touring the country with such a display of patriotism kept the police at bay. I laughed at that and suspected that it may also detract trailhead thieves from assuming the rig to be filled with climbing gear and other expensive electronics. For the most part (except when traveling in Canada) the flag served its practical purpose. It also gave the truck its name, initially coined by Karl as Captain America, then shortened to The Captain. While its size and styling were always topics of amusement and as a living quarter it was rather spacious and comfortable, the true image it put forth was a brutal display of arrogance - dominating the roads and trails with its macho bulk and filthy smog, aloof to the beautiful places it brought me to. It was only fitting really that it succombed to a violent death.
Last year, I wrote a post around this time about a running streak I’d kept for all of 2011. I discussed the merits of dedicating a small amount of time each day to something you love. While I kept striving for this ideal well into 2012, one day about mid-way through the year, I took a day off from running. It was the day after the SpeedGoat 50k. My body was protesting the effort, having finished Hardrock a few weeks earlier and I had driven 15 hours straight from Salt Lake City to Northern Washington to go climbing in the Cascades. Laying in the back of The Captain that night I felt a huge sense of guilt at not being able to keep the streak alive. I realized though and perhaps this is what troubled me most, that the streak was less about the running and more about the feeling that the unwavering commitment to a task conveys - a grounding mechanism of sorts. I’d created a dependency and developed comfort in the continuity. Now not only did my body feel broken, my mind also was agitated. It wasn’t until I stood next the wreckage of The Captain last week that I truly understood the lesson that began to emerge from my day off of running. Symbolically, the vehicle was powerful, grounded, unshakeable. Truthfully though, it was a menace to others and the environment. The streak too represented invisibility and made me stronger by the day, but pushed too far it held an underlying destructive power that left me beaten just like the truck. Life is resilient, but fragile at the same time, so it is for me to find the appropriate balance between living fully and the delicacy to sustain it.