Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Void

Crowns and Constellations pyrography original work by Gretchen Leggitt
Underneath towering mountains sits a meadow, and in that meadow rests an orange and silver ski pole.

Perhaps by now it is no longer colorful, but bleached by four summers of alpine sun, or pressed to bare metal by heavy, heavy snow. Or perhaps another mountain adventurer found it and placed it in the wood closet of the nearby ski hut to use as a spare, or to clear hanging icicles from the eaves above the deck.

After all, what is a single ski pole good for?

Whatever the case may be, that ski pole used to belong to me.

I lost it on the day I encountered a wormhole in the mountains, the true meaning of the Void, a piercing in the continuum between self-discovery and destruction, between achievement and catastrophe. Underneath those towering mountains I faced my own destruction in the form of a white wave of snow, impossibly huge, impossibly far away, surging over the ridgeline and down upon us.

Perhaps you've had the dream, too?

As the avalanche swept into us my mind was tethered across the expanse of the Void, from my life partner to my left, my best friend to my right, realizing the unfeeling infinity of the mountains and our miscalculated folly.

Paralyzed with tension, an unresolved panic, it was only chaos and good fortune that spared me ending up like the ski pole, resting in a meadow underneath towering mountains.

~Provided for artist Gretchen Leggitt for her gallery show Endure, Art and Storytelling from the Wild, which premiered at the Patagonia store in Denver, CO in July 2017, and is visiting other locations since. Gretchen uses pyrography, or wood burning, to create her complex illustrations that depict abstract perspectives of iconic mountain ranges and adventure themed subjects.  For these works, she created wood burns of specific locations to represent the places or scenes in which people have weathered enduring experiences, close calls, challenges and successes in the wilderness. She paired each work with a short piece of writing from adventurers around the world. Keep an eye out for her beautiful work around Bellingham, WA and enhancing outdoor culture throughout the West.   

This is a brief account of an encounter that I and a few others had with a very large avalanche on New Year's Eve 2013 deep in the Canadian Rockies near the BC/Alberta border. It was an experience that continues to challenge me to this day for the better. I am not proud to have experienced it, but I am deeply grateful for the lessons it burned into me, that my friends and I ended up on the other side, alive, forever reminded of the limits and risks of living, that not everything in the mountains is badass and beautiful...that your agenda matters not to the mountain. 


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