I’ve had a productive couple of days to integrate into life at home since returning from Patagonia. The dirty, smelly clothes have been washed and put away. The gear has been cleaned and stowed. I’ve re-stocked my kitchen with food and supplies. I caught up with loved ones and friends. I’m up to date on work, pregnancies, kids, and the flow of life here in East Tennessee. I have all my image files downloaded and backed up, but I still need to organize them. I’ve caught up on e-mail and some in-progress projects that I put on hold during my trip. I even made it to the doctor for some x-rays on my rib and knee. The rib is fractured. The ligaments in my knee are completely fine, but as I suspected, the medial meniscus has a tear. Fortunately, the damage appears minimal. Hopefully that good news will be confirmed by an MRI next week and then ultimately corrected with some arthroscopic surgery. I have a good prognosis for soon being as good as new! For now, both the rib and the knee feel much better. Amazing what a little rest, ice, and some anti-inflammatories do for a compromised body. In short, I’d have to say that I’m home!
I miss Patagonia. I miss the music. I miss the food. I miss the mate tea (Google it). I miss the challenge and exploration of cultures so different from mine that I feel like I’m on a different planet, yet so similar to mine that I see firsthand the universality of the human experience. I miss the single-minded focus of pursuing a clearly-defined goal of artistic expression. I miss my colleagues on the trip. Anytime you gather a small group of talented and dedicated explorers in the pursuit of a common goal, you have the recipe for a great team and that is what we had in Patagonia. A great team! I was without news and sports and TV for three weeks. You’d think I’d miss that, yet my initial forays into NPR and ESPN in the last 36 hours have made me question the value of such things. This leads me to an interesting sidebar. On my return flight to Knoxville, there were several members of the UT track team on board. The flight crew offered them service items from first class even though the team was sitting in economy. The other passengers praised them and made a big deal about seeing them. It made me question the reverence we place in our athlete heroes. What about the achievements of the other 35 passengers? If the flight attendant knew that I had climbed a 3000 ft mountain with a fractured rib to stand in a spot that maybe 25 other humans had ever seen, would he have offered me some Chees-its and a Coke like he did the pole vaulter? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no more a hero than the pole vaulter.
But I digress. This is not about pole vaulters or heroes. No, the point of this rambling diatribe is how can I maintain the spirit of Patagonia in my heart and mind for as long as possible. Of course, I have my pictures to remind me. I have my playlist of music I heard, which I’m playing now. It’s awesome. I have my memories. However, the reality is that they are bound to fade and I’ll soon be a regular watcher of Sports Center. I know this because I’ve experienced this after other big trips. After getting back, I always try to sustain the spirit of adventure in my everyday life. My goal is always to sustain the excitement one gets from really living, from the thrill of wondering what you’ll see at the top of the next hill or finding what awaits around the next corner. Or for the simple inspiration of raw unbridled beauty. I have to admit that, as much as I try to sustain that spirit in my everyday life, I often fall short. The magic eventually yields its seat to reality. The reality of everyday life often doesn’t leave much room for the magical spirit of adventure. It is the reality of reality. And I guess that is challenge for all of us: how to sustain a little bit of magic in our everyday reality. I’ll keep trying if you do!
Maybe this image will help. This is another one from the fjords of southwest Chile. I created this image as we were descending from a high camp above the Garcia Glacier located at the end of our journey into the fjords. We traveled more than 200 miles by boat over several days followed by a long, arduous hike (at least for me!) to 3000 ft above sea level. Our guides told us that this place has been visited by about 25 people. Pretty cool. One of the guides was carrying my camera bag, so I had to use my long telephoto for this image. Thus, it is a five-image digital stitch. Hmmm…maybe I am a hero! 😉