I traveled to Siberia once. I went backpacking in the mountains there, and while my surroundings seemed very familiar in some ways (creeks and conifers and distant crags) to places I have been in the States, I was a long day’s hike from town, plus a long day’s ride in a marshrutki from any town where somebody understood my language. And then, I was on an entirely different continent from home. It gave me the chills when I thought about it too much.
Last night I dreamed about Siberia again. In the way of dreams everything was slightly scrambled and different, but I knew where I was. I stood on a train platform in the country, looking out at a mountain meadow in summer. There were wildflowers and tall grasses, and beyond the meadow was a band of conifers. Beyond that was more meadow sloping up to more trees and mountains. The open country continued beyond my visual horizon. I wanted to explore it, but I felt cold and a little afraid, because the wilderness in front of me was larger and more remote than anything I had ever experienced before. If I stepped into that meadow, I knew, I would be lost.
It is not like me to be afraid of starting a hike. I am comfortable with and without trails. But I was in an odd mood when I woke up today. Sitting by my baseboard heater and looking up directions to the school I was substituting at, I wanted so badly to curl up with my pillows and a blanket and to hide in that burrow of warmth and ignore the outside world. I didn’t want to venture out into an unknown classroom full of kids to see how I measured up.
But that was my job, so I stepped out the door. I got through my day, and by the time lunch was over my groggy morning unease had mostly passed. Now I am home again, and everything around me is safe and familiar: the apartment walls, the baseboard heater, the laundry pile, the parking lot outside, my dusty sedan. And yet, when I think about where I am in the broader sense, I still feel a little chill, because this still feels like the wilderness. Not a rocks and trees wild, but a wilderness of uncertain employment prospects, financial difficulties, and absent best friends. Some days, it is hard to shake off this other fear of walking forward without a trail. I have to trust that I am reading the landscape well and am not simply wandering lost.
I trust my feet, and I trust that I can find my way. I think it is time to take a break from this blog again for a while. Maybe for good, maybe not. But right now I have some hills to climb.