As I write this, I am in a small drafty cabin located some 43 miles off the Elliot highway in the snowy White Mountains, Alaska. Lets just say it’s quiet. With all the silence things become clearer. No longer are material possessions, high school drama and homework prevalent. It all fades into oblivion to make way for more pressing matters. In such a harsh environment my own mortality becomes more apparent. A bad choice could mean big trouble. On the way out to the cabin I saw many tracks from some dare devil on a snow machine taking risky jumps onto an iced over lake. How long can someone survive with a serious injury 30 miles from a road that is 28 miles from the nearest town at 20 degrees below zero?
At one point in my wilderness adventure the larger snow machine, which was hauling all of our supplies, failed. At this point we were 15 miles from our car, and a possible 20 miles from any person that could help. How long will we be stuck here? Would I have to sleep out here? Or would I just walk all night, with risk of hypothermia? These questions rushed through my head adding to the tension. However I needed to stay calm, so I came to terms with the situation and dealt with it. Both my father and I took our survival gear and got aboard a small one-person snow machine from the early 80’s. It must have looked hilarious, but I couldn’t laugh. I was too worried about this pathetic vehicle failing and leaving us to the mercy of nature. Needless to say we made it, but things could have easily gone wrong.
Here in the wilderness at night it gets dark. When your out relieving yourself in the dark, you don’t know if that sound is the noise of the wind or just the sound of a cougar prepping itself for a feast of man flesh. My point isn’t always be ready for instantaneous death by the claws of a large feline, while doing number one in a shrub. My point is, when faced with a harsh environment that has forced me to consider these situations, I have come face to face with my own mortality.
I realize I may not live to a ripe old age, and I can’t take a day for granted. However I think it’s a little cliché to say, “I believe you should live everyday like it’s your last” let alone slightly morbid. So let me rephrase it: I believe that ones life should not be run by trivial matters with little or no consequence but focus on the things and people that truly matter. I find it a little ironic that only with dealing with my own mortality do I truly see how to live. And no, I don’t think there are any cougars here. I hope
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