Monday, June 4, 2012

On My Own

Taken from a rock in the South River. North Side.
I'm very proud of myself.  I finished walking the entire section of the South Rockdale Community Park River Trail.  The northern end of the trail is even more beautiful than the southern half.  Think of a path covered with trees, sun shining through in spots, and the sound of a river flowing past, little rapids, the plop of frogs jumping into the stream.  Not to mention turtles... big ones.  Like the southern part, the Power Lines come into view and stretch to the horizon where a distribution center sends the power off to be used.  What an amazing world we live in, and it's all right here, in our own county.

I was walking under the power lines, actually veering off on a path that goes to the South River, and all I could imagine was the scene in Clifford D. Simak's Ring Around the Sun where Jay Vickers sees the power plants and industry units in the parallel Earth he was walking in.  He walked for days without seeing a person, surviving on his own abilities.  I tried to imagine walking down this path, and being the only person for miles, or even further, and this whole place was for me to enjoy.  I'm selfish, I admit that.  A part of me wants to delete all these blogs posts about the River Trails and not let anyone else know that there are wonders just down the street.  A part of me wants to be Will Smith (you know, but without the undead things around), or Thoreau sitting in his log cabin beside Walden Pond. Because there is the joy of being free from societal constraints, from bills paid and job schedules and aesthetic norms.  There is the freedom from the constant drone of people's conversation, of television banter, of political animosity.  There is the squirrel that jumps out into the pathway and looks at you, and sees just another animal, and hops along, trying to find a seed to munch on.

Below the Power Lines on the North side, a trail to the South River.

What if we did what Jean Craighead George did in so many of her works (may she rest in peace), and send a teenager out into the wilderness to fend for themselves, without the GPS systems and cell phones and ipods and everything that keeps him or her connected to this world.  And what if, instead of a week, some kind of ritual into adulthood, we only send him out for a couple of hours, onto these paths, and not let anyone else travel them.  They would be totally alone.  It would be Glorious.  At least for me it would be, although I don't know if today's teenagers could take it.  It would be akin, to them, as child abuse.  It makes me think that maybe with all the wires and data streams connected to their bodies, if they aren't actually less advanced than their ancestors, a mere three or four generations ago.  I long for those days when no data transmissions flew through the sky above me at the speed of light.  When the only way to communicate was through the mouth, to the listening ear.  And if there were no people around, then you listened to yourself, and understood.  How is it that the great works of literature, the marvels of human thought, most of them were created before the 20th century?  Those that are post-invention of the telephone, television, etc... talk about how communication between people has broken down.  T.S. Eliot talks of the people on the bridge in "The Waste Land," or the confused J. Alfred Prufrock, and for all the breakthroughs in communication, we spend less time knowing our neighbors and more time knowing our machines.  Could we name the people living next door to us?  I can't.  But let us relive a quest from World Of Warcraft or name our Sims characters, and we can do that readily.

Wooden bridge on the South Side. Amazing construction!
The greatest danger we face in today's world is never being alone.  It becomes a scary silence, as when someone turns off the lights in a school classroom filled with kids.  They immediately start yelling, because they must identify that there are other people in the room.  If not, they are left with only themselves, hearing or seeing nothing.  And then they must come face to face with their own being.  That is something, I fear, that few people want to deal with.  They have to be constantly fed stimuli. Data from computers, TV broadcasts, the flicker of screens with strangers faces, even far into the night, when they are asleep.  This is normal, they say. Those that want to be alone are crazy.  Why would they want to walk, outside, alone, with nothing but their own thoughts to keep them company?  It is unfathomable that, just a century ago, most people were like that for a majority of the day.  As they slept, only the cicadas and the frogs gave nightly reports.  The thoughts were of the day, or of the past, memories to bring sweet joy upon recollection. Now we can't even do that.  The present is consistently upon us, demanding that we assimilate data and respond, for the future is "coming up!" as the news reports say. 

View from a small trail on the North Side.
 Then let me be alone, and I will walk the paths of Rockdale County.  But I will not be alone.  I will have the understanding of Thoreau, picking blackberries on the hillsides of Concord.  I will listen to the 4/4 beat of my walking stick, and keep time with my steps.  And if I find a path that takes me off the trail, into the woods, to some secluded spot on the South River, then I will enjoy being off the trail.  I will find my way back; I am certain of that.

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