Bear with me, Reader; I do not intend to be vulgar. That is not why we’re here.
I had once made the statement that everything is beautiful, and if we don’t find something beautiful, it’s simply because we don’t understand its innate beauty within. We, humans, are very limited in our ability to perceive the world, and that limitation forces us to scorn that which we fail to perceive fairly. Ugly things are just poorly understood.
Yesterday, I was sitting on the toilet when the smell of my own shit recalled to mind Lassen Peak, a volcano in the northeastern part of California.
My shit reeked. But it reeked in a distinctly different way than usual. Never before had its odor brought to mind the sulphuric, gaseous slopes of Lassen. I had once climbed Lassen with my dad and brother on a family vacation in the Cascades when I was much younger. I don’t remember much about Lassen aside from the smell, a smell which lay dormant within me, apparently ready to awaken my memories.
My strongest memory: When we reached Lassen’s summit, we took turns peeing into its crater. Just so we could say we peed into the crater of an active volcano. Just to show it who’s boss.
Look, Lassen, we know you could destroy us. Please just let us pretend for a moment that we are not meek pieces of fleshy sadness. Allow us to think we are something capable of Greatness. At least just for a moment.
I don’t even have any pictures of our trip to Lassen. There is nothing physical with which I can jostle awake the dormant memories, except apparently the smell of my own bowels. But that’s okay, because as I sat there on the toilet, the failed recollection of Lassen brought forth other times my father, brother, and I journeyed together through familial camaraderie to the beyond: backpacking trips in Hawaii, in the Sierras, numerous trips up South Sister in Oregon, and just recently: Mount Kilimanjaro of Africa.
These are my role models. They helped me forge my identity. They made me who I am.
My brother: the Exuberant Idealist – I remember once sitting in his car when I was eleven years old going to Boy Scouts with him. He played Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony and taught me how to appreciate the complex emotional language of the orchestra. He harvested within me a love of music and expression. Now, fifteen years later, I am a composer.
My father: the Silent Sage – He imparted to me a love of travel and an enthusiasm for exploring the distant corners of the Earth. I remember seeing old pictures of him when he was my age, wandering aimlessly around Europe in the 1970’s as I did in the 2000’s. I take pictures of myself atop mountains as he had done, following in his footsteps as an outdoorsman and pursuer of greater wisdoms, whether or not those wisdoms be captured.
I do not have many photos printed; most of my pictures are digital on my computer. But I do have this one: poorly scanned and printed from a lost original and torn down the middle:
This picture will follow me until it crumbles to fine dust.
And there I sat, on my toilet, smelling my shit and thinking about how much I love my family.