Author Archives : Connor Rickett


About Connor Rickett

My name is Connor Rickett. I started out in the sciences, but left grad school to follow a dream of writing and traveling. Since then I have done a fair bit of both, visiting forty-five states and several provinces, and making a living (more or less) as a freelancer and ghostwriter. Feel free to swing by my business site, CitiesoftheMind.com


Shatter

Shatter.

I don’t know if everyone has favorite words, or that’s a writer thing, or a me thing, but I that’s one of mine. It’s been since sometime in my teen years, floating around in my head, rearing up in odd moments.

I love the way it sounds, I love what it means; it encapsulates more than breaking. Violent, presumably irrevocable destruction is implied, yet, also, a breaking out of proportion with the act from which it sprang.

Shatter has so many possibilities.

When I was young, I loved LEGOs. I built spaceships with them. They had stories. They had personalities, histories, and, as a child, I was invested in them. They were precious things to be protected. They were also, periodically, knocked to the floor.

A crash, and the pieces would scatter across our wood floors, clattering as they slid improbably far. Even then, some part of my mind was caught up in the fact that a fall of three feet could send something ten feet across the floor and under a bed.

Shatter was the beginning.

Reaching beneath the furniture, consulting with the encyclopedic memory of youth, the process would begin of tracking down every broken piece and returning them to their position.

Shatter is irrevocable, though, and the ships never came back together quite the same way. Instead, they evolved. The destruction opened up new possibilities. In this way their stories moved forward. These ships with names, and their crews. From alien worlds they rose, different than before. Sometimes two ships became one. Sometimes one became several. Either way, in destruction there was rebirth.

One trip back from college I took one of those shatterproof bowls from my car, and demonstrated to my dad how unbreakable it was by dropping onto the concrete.

To my chagrin, when it hit the ground, it shattered.

It broke energetically, pieces flying out every which way, in long, curving shards, nearly a series of concentric circles. I kept the largest piece for half a decade before it broke again. I still have a piece of it somewhere. It’s still one of the most oddly beautiful things I’ve ever encountered. See, it broke in concentric rings, shattered along the lines of the resonance within it; destroyed by its own strength. The largest piece looked like nothing so much as a crown, high and spiked, austere and lovely. If Aris had a crown, it would have been made from this broken bowl.

It’s a process that repeats today. I finish a story, even a book, and I drop it. . . to see if it shatters. I rebuild it from the pieces, some words lost, some kept. . . some of the best stories I’ve ever written were lost. I’d remember them, and go back to find them, only to realize they died with a site membership or a hard drive.

Diving into the crevices of my memory in search of all the little scattered words I go. Little-by-little the story comes back together, different, better, more than it was. Sometimes they crash together, combine, sometimes they split. Everything I’ve ever written has been broken and rebuilt over and over.

And we, we’re the same. Sooner or later we all shatter. No matter how strong we are, something is too much, and all the pieces go everywhere. So much of our lives, our happiness, is not determined by any events but by how adept we are into finding all the best pieces of ourselves and building them into something new.

I like it, it’s a good word, shatter. 


Good News and Random Thoughts on Writing 3

Good News and Random Thoughts on Writing

I guess I might be doing paid blogging under my own name soon. How about that? I’m excited! And maybe a bit introspective.

I’m not going to lie, it all still weirds me out sometimes.

I write. I don’t make new words, I don’t, generally, make new thoughts. I just take old ideas and old words and add new packaging. Sometimes it seems absurd to be paid for this. Not in the least because I did it for free, for years. Hell, most the writing I do is still for free. Everything, the paid, the free, it can be compressed into a few gigabytes, and be stored, transmitted, or duplicated as quickly and often as you please. Everyone who reads this gets their own copy delivered straight to their screens.

DING! ORDER UP!

It’s not art, though. Really, it’s not. Writing is not art. Sometimes I feel like I’m the guy in the Emperor’s New Clothes who’s convinced everyone he’s making something wonderful, and they just can’t see it because they’re not clever enough. “Oh yeah, I write things, professionally. You should totally pay me, because you couldn’t do this.”

I guess what I do for money is more like the Pied Piper, though, isn’t? I make my money by taking people’s minds in a direction. And you know what? That is a serious skill (and you should always pay the Pied Piper) but it’s all a bit intangible. I say intangible, but there’s a science to it. There are ways to craft sentences, present blogs and writing, times and places to present it to get certain responses and reactions. I don’t always do them, mind you, but there is a reason for what you see on the internet, what you like, and so on. It follows relatively predictable patterns. That’s what you have to remember about it all.

If everyone’s a writer, I suppose the good ones are professionals at looking through other peoples’ eyes. If that’s true then, of all the careers I ever could have picked, this might be the one I’m least suited for. Genes made me smart, genes made me big and strong–I, and the people who raised me, have put considerable effort into amplifying and encouraging those predispositions, but I had just about finished college before other people really worked their way into me. It happened a little at a time. There wasn’t a moment of epiphany, it was a slow process, and at the end of it I had a lot friends I cared about, a lot of people who actually cared about me. I moved from a world of black boxes to a world of relationships.

That’s what I have to tap into when I write. Even the mundane things. That understanding that all of us–though I do not even believe in God–God are we lights in the darkness. We are just this mess of fiery want and need and hope. Hopes and dreams and love . . . many people, maybe most people, are small, but there is an intensity to people nothing in the world truly matches.

I have been wrong so many times, and failed in so many different ways . . . and yet here I am. It’s easy to forget that the people we meet, though they exist in that instant for us, each have an existence like ours, different in length and path, direction, but it’s there, ahead and behind. But, if you want to influence the direction they’re headed, you have to remember that.

It’s the difference between good fiction writers and bad fiction writers, too. Good ones get that the fake people they’ve created are creatures in motion, confused, overwhelmed, unsure of their fates, and presented by the same choice we are: Die, or keep going.

There’s the other side of writing, mind you. The flow of words to build, create, push and change. Creating worlds that never were to change the way people see the world that is. That’s beauty, and power, and, maybe, art. The greatest moments, though, are in describing the world as it is, in a new way. Sometimes–maybe most of the time–changing perception does more than changing the reality. I suppose that’s a nonsensical idea, that changing the perception of reality changes reality more than actual changes to reality. Better to say that perception is the fulcrum which we move to change our reality . . . the strength to change reality from its course outright is largely beyond us.

There is frustration in it, too. Seeing the shape of something, almost there, and yet not. There is no greater curse than nearly the right words. Creation is a hungry thing, though. Living is a hungry thing. Life devours. The act of devouring is living, and nothing lives like us.

And nothing shapes our lives like the words which determine our perceptions of the world.

I think that’s enough babbling for now. There will be more, later, of course.

Regards,

Connor


Life Less Than 30

MNIC Feat Less Than 30

“Less than thirty.”

“It can’t be that small,” she said. Technically, since we were talking about length, it wasn’t small, it was short. Oh, the insecurities of youth, right?

Normally, letting that pass without comment would have been about as possible for me as licking my own elbow or singing opera. This time it went by without a word or even a snigger, because I was concentrating on something.

I’d just done the math in my head, so I was seriously entertaining the thought that I’d made a rounding error; I was checking it by doing an easier problem:

“One hundred times three-sixty-five-point-two-five is . . . thirty-six-five-twenty-five. It’s right. Less than thirty.”

Twenty-seven is an important year, though we don’t really notice. That wasn’t the bit she was commenting on, though—and no, it wasn’t that bit, either. She was commenting on what I’d said moments prior, “Less than thirty.”

The math there wasn’t really too hard to do: Twenty-four thousand, plus four thousand eight hundred, plus four hundred, plus twenty, equals twenty-nine thousand two hundred twenty. Less than thirty.

It can’t be that short.

And it does seem short, doesn’t it?

Most things, they seem smallest when lumped together into a few large aggregates, but eighty years seems so . . . vast. There’s a lot of time in eighty years. Time to change, time to do the things you’ve been putting off, time to go back, time to go forward, time to dream and to fail, and fail, until you succeed, and time still then to enjoy that success. Time to recline and bask in a life well-lived, even though we haven’t yet found time for the living.

27

Like I said, twenty-seven is an important year. I’m twenty-seven. Twenty-seven is young. Old enough to have watched friends die and watched friends have children of their own, but young. Twenty-seven is the year you turn ten thousand, and ten thousand days, that’s old, when you probably won’t see thirty.

Somehow, thirty thousand is less than eighty. It works by months, too; you probably won’t see a thousand months pass you by. Suddenly each month is a tenth of a percent of your life ticked off with each turn of the calendar page.

Like most people my age, I think, I see myself as independent, adventurous. I take risks, and I’m willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of future goals. I move a lot. I mean, I’m the guy who dropped out of chemistry grad school to live in his car, travel, and write. Wanderlust is my defining feature.

On the second day after I left, I stopped at a waterfall—well, actually, I drove past a waterfall—in the Rockies. Then I turned around on the shoulder of the road, stopped to talk briefly to a guy who was rollerblading across the United States (he’s still the only person I’ve ever seen with calves bigger than his quads), and drove about a mile back to the fall. I parked in between an army of RVs, most with little Jeeps being towed behind, like remoras. I walked down the trail through a sea of retirees, and stood for a moment at the barricade with them. Then I walked past it, up a narrow trail, mossy and slick from the mist, and climbed up along the side of it. The roar was defining, the rocks were sharp, the water everywhere, and so cold I was sure it wasn’t water at all; it was just ice that needed to be somewhere in a hurry.

I looked back, and I saw them down there, little white heads behind the barricade. People who had worked their whole lives so they could afford to view life from a distance someday, safely behind the railing. That was the last time I had a single doubt about whether leaving grad school was the right choice.

That was then. It’s harder to justify that view staring at 10,205 days, gone. I . . . what have I done worth noting, really? Here I am, probably staring at a third of my life in the rear view, and do I actually know who I am, or where I’m going?

Stop.

I just stopped writing this to talk to a college friend who walked into this random Starbucks—small world—and he’s doing physical rehab now. He was another chem guy back when we were in school together. As he put it, “I know what I want to do, it just took me six extra effing years.”

Serendipity is the best part of life. I was going to write about the difficulty of plotting a path. That was stupid, and my friend reminded me why.

See, I’ve got that much figured out. We’re lots of people, each of us, and we’re going lots of places. It’s not a lack of paths which besets us, it’s a lack of inner certainty. Our lives are nothing but paths tangled all over one another.

Life is a buffet where they serve everything but you only get one plate; it’s easy to be paralyzed by the decision.

Let’s be clear, here, it’s not about fear of where we’re headed, for most of us, it’s about fear of missing what’s on the other path. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that standing there, staring at the fork in the road sign costs us both paths. There’s a you down both paths; the question is, Which you would you rather be?

Most of life is not finding answers, it’s finding the right questions, and I think that’s the right one.

Is the me who stays here the me I want to be? Or is it the me who goes there?

The truth is any one path can get you almost anywhere. They overlap, over and over. You can scale cliffs and slide down slopes, cut across trails, and duck under railings. Pick a direction you like, and take whatever trail will take you there. If don’t know which direction to go, go see what this one or the other looks like, you can always work your way around.

There’s that stupid old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Well, screw that. Wherever you go, there you’re going.

You’ll get where you’re going. Just—you know—walk, because you’ve only got thirty thousand days to spend getting there. Life is short, but that doesn’t mean it’s small.

At the end of the days, it’s not really about how many days you lived, it’s about how many days you loved.

 

MNIC paths


Just Keep Walking

I’m tired as all hell right now, because I’m resetting my schedule. At least I think I’m tired. My body’s not really sure, and my mind never really buys into the “sleep” concept. Sometimes I just don’t sleep. That’s just life. One of the few drawbacks of living with my girlfriend is that it makes it notably harder to reset, since someone else needs to be in my space, using it, at various times. And yet we adapt and overcome life’s minor inconveniences, right?

I mean, there are a few fringe benefits.

Walking out of the gym yesterday at 5AM, and the sky was gray-blue, a cold wind brought the smell of winter of rain rushing down. As I reached my car, the drops began to fall. There was something very affirming in the moment; I love the gray rainy days, and the gray rainy dawns even more. I’ve improved my performance on the stair climber by 50% over the course of a month–half again as far in the same half hour. I like the pace, now I’m headed for time. So there was something plain nice about walking out into a world a little more like what I like than Phoenix usually provides. Just keep walking, and you get closer. It was like the world was handing me a little reward for persistence.

There’s a lot of that going around just now.

That’s the simplest rule of travel, you know. Just keep walking. It’s not metaphorical, or, at least, the metaphor is a coincidental ancillary bit. It works for writing, too; keep writing. That’s how you write the books, finish the projects, overcome writer’s block, and all the rest. Just put one damned word after the other until you’re done. One foot, one word, life’s an awful lot of ones adding up to the bigger things.

I got slightly behind last week on Cities of the Mind, which I’ve been otherwise on top of since the new year . . . I had three videos ready to go, but I skipped Friday because I watched them and decided I could do them better. I’ll be redoing them shortly. I also missed my guest post day, not because I didn’t have one, but because I entered the post date into the wrong field. Whooooops! Anyway, if you want to read about the inspirational properties of adult diapers, please check out BC Brown’s guest post over there!

We’ve been gardening. She’s got pepper plants. I can’t believe how fast my peas are growing. The tomatoes are already flowering and producing little tiny tomatoes! The grape vine is still suspiciously devoid of growth, but I maintain hope.

I’m taking a day off from the gym. I did heavy leg day yesterday, and it has made my rear end rather sore.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where to go from here. I can feel my life getting back under control–things are good, and life is good, and life should be good, but it must always be full of challenges, or it is wasted. So many roads ahead, and, of course, the rule Don’t stop walking. Some of the potential paths are safe, some are dangerous, and, of course, I have to take the plans of my girlfriend and her growing forest of cacti into account.

Planning.

It’s not my strongest point. I react well. I react really well. But we all have weaknesses. I understand the value of planning, but I fundamentally lack an enthusiasm or desire for the process.

So much to do, and see, and be. Maybe that’s what I reject in planning. When you plan, you exclude options. A compact list is just an inverse list of all the things you won’t/can’t do.

This weekend, though, is the ostrich festival. So, that’s a plan, right?

I am, speaking of life’s “can’ts” too fat to ride an ostrich. And Moas, to our eternal sorrow, are extinct.

Would you guys like me to post fiction again? I used to post short stories up here, but I quit, for various reasons. I’ve been considering doing that again.

In any case, I have actual work-work to do right now, so the ramblin’s done for the nonce.

Regards,

Connor


Fruits and Veggies Incoming!

Fruits and Veggies And Site Details

I hope you like how this site is looking. I recently switched over to the Customizr theme, and I really like what can be done with it. Still, since this is my “fun site” I don’t have time to really do to much fancy stuff on here. Still, I think it looks sort of earthy and pretty.

I use the Moesia theme over on my professional site, and I like that one, too. I’m using different themes mostly for the sake of experience and such, and because I think I’ve created something both flashy and functional with Moesia. I’ve created a sort of “Blog Hub” circular navigation system on there, supplementing the linear branched menu design, so that it’s easier to find your way to specific interests.

I’ve also been looking for guest posters to help round out Cities of the Mind. I’ve been doing videos over there, too, and it’s going well enough that I’m seriously considering doing a few over here too!

Not that I’ll stop writing. Not that I could stop writing. I never stop writing. At best, I can modify slightly what I’m writing for awhile. Actually, I’m better at that than sticking with it, but so far this current system of throwing lots of variety into my blogs has been helping me out. I don’t think I’ve missed a post date on my 5-days-a-week schedule yet in 2015.

I can’t remember off the top of my head when I decided to start it, but I’ve stuck with it that long.

Life is Good

I’m having a really good time, lately. I’m making enough money that I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I didn’t even really notice I was stressed, to be honest. It’s like there’s been a fat kid standing on my chest, and I’d just gotten used to it.

The training is going really well. There’s the minor aches and pains which I fear are just part of pushing a body on the downslope of its third decade, but nothing unendurable, and the results have been great so far. I’m almost back to 180, and it’s a good thing I’m making more money, because I cannot shove food into my face fast enough.

I still haven’t started training with the weighted pack, because I’m lazy, and all that, but it’s coming.

Planting Things

Spring is here: We had our first thundershower of the year this week, and we now have three buckets of rainwater for our plants. Lauren and I bought some minor veggies. I bought peas and tomato plants. The tomatoes are already in hanging buckets, and the peas will soon join them. The grape vine is planted where the rain water runs of the patio. I’m all kinds of excited about it all, truth told. Apparently, I have a soft spot for vines. Fresh fruits and veggies incoming! I’ll take pictures of the garden as it develops.

Have a great week,

Connor


Corporate Identity 3

The Corporate Identity

“Why don’t you have a Starbucks card?” she asks. The question has a layered quality in my mind, because it’s played simultaneously in my memory with about a dozen tracks other men and women asking the same question, with the same words, and even the same intonation. That I’m-not-being-pushy-I-just-want-to-nudge-you tone. It’s just a really small pledge of allegiance to a corporate identity.

“I should, shouldn’t I?” I answer, because people have trouble responding to question-non-questions–it breaks the script–and it’s always fun to see where it goes from there.

Why don’t I, though? I mean, financially, it would make sense. The inconvenience of another thin rectangle of plastic in my wallet would be negligible. There’s already credit cards in there with my name on them, business cards, supermarket discount cards, my ID (actually every ID I’ve ever had, except for my first one, which was snapped in half while opening a door). And so on.

I’ve made an effort, though, to make those cards useless. I never filled out the little application that goes with the supermarket cards, so there’s no name, phone number, or address associated with them. This has the added bonus of being slightly amusing in the places where the cashiers are obligated to thank you by name when you shop there. It must be pretty common, though, because everyone but the newbie cashiers transition very smoothly to, “Thank you . . . for shopping with us.” It’s just a quick glance to where the name is supposed to be, and then an instant recovery when it’s not there.

I’ve made an effort online, too. I’ve lied about my personal details on just about every field I’m not legally obligated not to from the very beginning. New Years for me means a sudden influx of emails with subjects like,  “Happy Birthday  Youdon Tneedtoknowthat!” and, “Happy New Year Nunya Bidnez!”

Tribal

Anyway, back to the cards; I guess I’ve never been able to shake the association of cards in my wallet with IDs. Yes, my name is Connor, but also, if I’m carrying that Starbucks card around, then I’m a little bit Starbucks, too. Somewhere in my brain. That’s what all those cards are about. They’re a club, and they want you to be a member, right? Humans are, at a very basic level, tribal. You only have to look at children to know that much.

Fry’s gives you a card because they want you to carry a badge that says you’re part of Tribe Fry’s. Basha’s gives you one for the same reason, and they do it for the same reason. You could make a pretty good case, I think, that corporate structure is the replacement for the feudal structures of eras past, but that’s an article for another day.

I’m not taking some hipster stance that, “Blah, blah blah, corporate, blahblahblah, less than human, blah, machine, blah, per se, blah, etc.” Even though I take a little joy in tossing the occasional apple of discord to a marketing firm, I don’t think it really matters at the end of the day.

The honest source of my reticence is . . .  I just have this horrible picture in my head of meeting some traveler from a distant space or time, and them going through my wallet and saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Costco Visa of Clan Starbucks.”

But that’s just really hard to explain to the Starbucks girl in the time it takes to fill a cup with 16oz of coffee.

 


The Life Lottery

Note: This was written Tuesday. 

Field Trips

Well, I got lost this morning for awhile. I was on my way over to pick up my housemate from the mechanic, and I took a wrong turn, and went on adventure. I guess I still have a bit to learn about Phoenix. We’ve been sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours now, and it’s probably getting on towards done; I figured it might be time to throw together today’s blog.

Work Life

Work life is good right now. I’m the good kind of busy, and I’m loving it. I’m riding that particular high that comes from already having enough money to pay rent next month. A distinct and lovely lack of stress–it’s sort of like turning off a vacuum cleaner; the world is suddenly so quiet and peaceful. I hadn’t even realized someone had been standing on my chest the last couple months, but, hey, I  can breathe.

The first savings goal is to acquire enough to pay for a decent pair of boots.

Applying for Trail Permits

Matt and I applied for trail permits today.

It’s actually a really involved process. There’s a lottery for the Whitney Permit. We need to get that, and once we have that, we can apply for the wilderness sections of the trail. There’s an element of luck involved in just having a window to set the record.

The only choice, though, is full steam ahead, because I need to be ready to go long before I know whether or not I actually will.

Training for Record Attempt

This is going places. I’ve been working out steadily, I’ve found a place to write with a bar setup, so I can work standing. This is important. Feet need to get used to the idea of supporting your body for hours and hours at time.

I’ve not used them yet, but I’ve bought two fifty pound bags of gravel. They’re going to go in my backpack. I’m going to be going on regular walks, first with the fifty, then the hundred, while continuing to train at the gym. Eventually, the stair-climbing in the gym will be combined with the pack.

Right now, I’m doing sessions of half an hour on the stair climber, at a pace that takes me about 2.5 miles, then another couple on the treadmill, and a few bodyweight exercises three times a week. The other days are either rest or weight training days.

I’ve been doing research, and I see I need to do step-down exercises as well. The trick is to shake things up, as well. As the training ramps up, I’ll also be climbing actual mountains in the area more and more often, because that’s how you really get in shape for climbing mountains: climbing mountains.

Already Happy

I’m already really happy with the training. This regimen encompasses a lot more cardio than my usual workouts, and I’ve already noticed a lot more muscle definition, which is pretty cool, but this isn’t about looking fit–this is about endurance. Not even running endurance, but plodding endurance.

I will need to be able to carry 50-60 pounds at a fast walking pace for eighteen hours, several days in a row. That’s going to take some work.

The real key is sticking with it. I can walk fast enough, I can carry the weight, I just need to get to the point where I can manage both at the same time, and that’s just an incremental affair. Like most things in life, it’s not a training montage, it’s constant and continual work until the goal is reached.


The Colors We Couldn’t See 2

ColorCouldNotSee

There is No Darkness

Sometime just prior to my teen years, I got my hands on a book called There is no Darkness by Joe Haldeman, who you might recognize as author of The Forever War, and his brother Jack. If you don’t, you should read it. There is no Darkness is not quite the masterpiece Forever War was, but it’s a damned good book. It centers around a group of students in a sort of spaceship/school for the rich or gifted . . . and, of course, references Shakespeare’s line, “There is no darkness but ignorance.”

The story was fun, the line was something I internalized on an entirely different level. It may have been the most influential single sentence in my life (perhaps excepting, “Let’s get dangerous,” by one Drake Mallard). Few people could quip an earthshaking truth like the Bard.

 

Shadows I Couldn’t See

Once, in my first year of college, I was listening to KRST 92.3 country radio (92.3 is a rock station in Las Vegas, and I was too lazy to adjust the presets) crackling in and out of static as I wound my way through the mesas on the approach to Los Alamos, to visit my college girlfriend. It was getting late, and the whole world was defined by the range of a T100’s headlights and the radio. One moment, Vince Gill was warning his buddy to shape up, or he was going to steal his girl, then I went around a bend, and my radio was hissing like the little elves that power the circuitry (my understanding of electronics is hazy) had taken a fiver to fry up BLTs.

Then I turned another bend, and Vince was explaining that the girl was just tired of being Cinderella, and I realized with stunning clarity that I was driving through shadows I couldn’t see. The world around me was a riot of light, and I was awash in words written out on colors of light I couldn’t see in a language I didn’t speak. They’d been there all along, I’d used them my entire life, and just never thought to think about it.

And I thought to myself, “There is no darkness. . . “

It sort of changed my opinion of conspiracy theorists . . . I mean, what if I walked up to you right now on the street and told you the air was full of words we couldn’t hear without a metal tube and some transistors? That there were messages hidden in the colors we couldn’t see? Crazy, right?

 

Pale Blue Dots and Abyssal Gazes

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot still gives me goosebumps. It made me mist up a little the first time I read it, and I’m not prone to that sort of thing.

 

 

Our one little world, alone in that endless abyss, it seemed so humbling and so impossible; it couldn’t be true. Since then, I’ve learn it wasn’t, except in a pale small way, for all its beauty.

Long after Pale Blue Dot I read about the Hubble Deep Field. Have you heard of it? It was a case of someone doing something that would, on the surface, seem pointless: They looked around until they found the darkest patch of sky. It a tiny slice of the sky, one-twenty-four-millionth of the visible sky, hidden in the heart of the Great Bear, and they aimed Hubble right into it.

They gazed into the abyss, you could say–a line I first encountered at the beginning of Baldur’s Gate (a video game) around the same time as I read Haldeman’s book as a preteen, and four years later when my Philosophy 101 class introduced me to Thus Spake Zarathustra. In full, it is, “When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you,” another line the sticks. It’s one of those things everyone knows subconsciously until they hear it spoken aloud, and then wishes it had stayed below. The Darkness gazes back, as we’ve all known since we were little children.

Them the Hubble gazed long, ten days long, more than three hundred images long, into the abyss.

The thing was, the abyss didn’t gaze back.

What they found hidden in the abyss was not nothing and more nothing, but, in fact, everything. Galaxies and galaxies, containing so many stars that if each of us picked our own small piece and started counting, all of us would be dead of old age before we’d tallied a fraction of them. The darkness held nothing but more worlds than we could ever dream of. Wonders we could never count, and none of which we’ll ever see.

 

I recommend you look at the full-size image. Try not to get lost.

 

 

For awhile, I thought nothing at all. There are moments we have that just wash over us, and this was for me, and many others I think, one of them. Then I thought, if we could do it again, pick the darkest twenty-four-millionth of this photo, and look into that, we’d see something just like this all over again.

Then I thought, There is no darkness. 

Whatever it is, it’s Not Nothing

Over the past few years we’ve been grappling with the concept of dark energy and dark matter. We know it’s there, because it’s doing things, it has gravity, which means it has mass, but we don’t know much else, because we can interact with it meaningfully. It’s either mass we understand behaving in a way we don’t, or mass we don’t understand behaving in a way we do. Either way, it’s puzzling. The stuff it’s made out of just doesn’t seem to want to mess with the stuff we’re made of. Observation and understanding require interaction, on some level.

So we don’t know what it is, we just know it’s not nothing. Where there should have been nothing we’ve only found a different sort of something.

There is no darkness, only ignorance, indeed. I wonder sometimes, how long it took Shakespeare to think of the phrase. Was it a flash of brilliance, a labor of intense thought, or just a quip ironically ignorant of its own scope?

It’s a very comforting thought, There is no darkness, until the second bit wiggles into you, except ignorance. The implication that there is no darkness demands the understanding that, no matter how it looks, it is never empty, no, just full of things you cannot see. The darkness is full, full to the bursting, layered and bound up in twisting knots of more things than we can experience, more things than we count, more things than we can perceive–and the possibility that just because we can’t see them, yet, doesn’t mean they can’t see us.

Perhaps Nietzsche knew what he was talking about after all.


A Valentine: Lauren & Connor take a couples’ selfie

The All-Important Couple Selfie

All relationships face challenges, even the good ones–maybe especially the good ones–and some of those challenges are big, important, things. Others are . . . less so, but they still exist. Lauren and I, when we do things together, often forget the all-important couples ritual of taking a selfie together to prove we do things together, so the internet can tell we love each other.

The Challenge

Here’s the thing, though, I’m 8-10 inches taller than her, depending on footwear. This, coupled with our lack of practice, can make things, well, difficult. I have to look like I’m comfortable and relaxed while standing like I’m doing a squat, or she has to be on tip toes, or the camera has to be at some ridiculous angle. . . . and on, and on. It doesn’t help that we both reflexively make funny faces at cameras. We did remember take a couples’ photo on the last hike, but it wasn’t easy. I got a good laugh while I was putting together the hike post last week, so I thought I’d share the reject piles (we each had a camera) today.

My Camera

Another Note

Not a big country fan, but I’m enjoying the hell out of this song. Every song’s always, “Our love is perfect, it’s all so easy,” or “I’m sexually liberated, excuse me while I screw him, and her, and this lamp, and that poptart, if you’re done with it,” or, “Well, yeah, I cheated, sup dude? Blame it on the {something that isn’t me}.”

It was a really cool surprise to hear one on the radio that’s like, “Yeah, I have a life, I meet attractive people and enjoy their company, I could totally be out sleeping with strangers, and I’m human so sometimes that idea has some allure, but, hey, I walk the line because I’ve got somebody I come home to.”

 


The John Muir Record Attempt 1

The Overview

So I have a good friend who wants to set a record. The record he wants to set is actually the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but we’ve decided to start with the John Muir Trail. We’ve done the math, done the research, and we think we can do it. We’d be making the attempt (if we win the lottery for it) this summer.

The John Muir Trail (which I’ve already hiked part of) runs from Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48, through the Sierras, including King’s Canyon and Sequoia, and into Yosemite. It’s actual part of the PCT, so it will be a good test run, no matter what happens.

 

 

You can find out more about both trails here.

 

The Hike

This isn’t an easy hike. It’s 211-ish miles through altitudes as high as 14,505′. And we need to do it in less than 78 hours. This is back country, wilderness .  .  . the trail is clearly marked, but you share it with deer and bears. That sort of place.

It’s also a hike through the parts of the country that inspired the national park system. Some of the most beautiful country on the planet. It’s a place out of dreams.

 

The Campaign

We are planning to go all the way with this record attempt. We’ll be filming it; Matt’s even got a camera drone. We’re going on an adventure, and we want you to come along for the ride. We’re also planning on grabbing as wide an audience as we can. We’re planning on a social media campaign, maybe some crowdfunding, definitely sponsors if we can get some.

 

The Training

Here’s the truth: We should have been training for this all year. Instead we’ve go six months. I think we can do it, but that means we’re going to be training hard. I’ve been hitting the gym almost daily since the end of January. I’m even doing cardio.

I hate cardio.

But I’m doing cardio, because in six months I’ll need pistons for legs and gas tanks where my guts go. I can already keep up the pace we need to keep up easily, I just need to be able to do it with a 50-100 pound pack above the treeline for 70-something hours.

We’re also, starting a month before our hike, going to switch to the Uberman sleep schedule.

 

What You Can Expect

Well, the journey starts here and now, not six months from. We don’t know for sure if we’ll be able to go, or when, yet, because there’s a lottery system for selecting backcountry permits. Still, we need to start training last year, so that’s going to be happening. We’ll be logging progress, looking at the things we need to do, and so on.

I’ll be saving up for a decent pair of boots.

Our thinking is that, worst case, we have to settle for being in awesome shape and walking through one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I think we’ll do a bit more than that, though.

 

More to come,

Connor Rickett