Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Body Heat

When we wake up each morning, parts of the brain are up before others, the ones whose main job is survival. “Damn! It’s cold!” they shout and off we go throwing on sweaters, turning on the heat, putting a log on the fire or boiling water for coffee. Deciding whether Deconstructionist Theory comes from valid assumptions or not is way on the back-burner, if it makes it to the stovetop at all. Immediate comfort is first on the agenda and we’ll do whatever it takes.

Every morning this past week as I set out on the Inca Trail, I put on jeans, rainpants, thermal undershirt, shirt, vest, sweatshirt and poncho. My primary concern was to listen to the brain’s regulatory alarm clock; “Get warm! Now!” Off we went and by the time we had climbed some 100 stone steps, the alarm rang again: “Shed! Shed!” And so a long pause as I peeled the layers off, changed to shorts and wondered why I even bothered to bundle up.

“Chopping wood heats you twice, “goes the old country wisdom and part of that applies to hiking. Once you start hiking, especially uphill, the body heat rises from the effort and you don’t need all those extra animal or artificial skins to warm us. Makes me wonder why I can’t remember that and start the day with slight discomfort knowing that the body will warm up. Because then I’m stuck with my backpack filled with blue jeans, rainpants, vest, sweatshirt, etc. to lug around for the rest of the day.

As with the body, so with the heart and mind. We lug around the machines and accoutrements that layer us with recorded music, filmed stories, electronic messages all at the click of a button. But if we exercise our own imagination, get the heart out hiking in a world filled with wonder, sing our own songs and beat our own rhythms, we generate our own mental and emotional heat and feel lighter, more independent, less weighed down. Like all of us, I’m nervous and forgetful and short on faith that I can warm myself and so throw the i-Pod, computer, DVD, book and more into the backpack— and then have to carry that heavy load for the rest of the trip.

Naturally, I’m not going to throw out my rainpants or sweater or computer or i-Pod. They all serve their purpose and I’m grateful for their help and company. But fresh from hiking, just a reminder to myself to show more faith in the body’s ability to generate its own heat, the heart’s ability to evoke its own emotion, the mind’s ability to create its own imagery and soulful stories. We all need some time off the grid of the entertainment industry and its perpetual invitation to overdress and bundle up beyond what’s necessary.

I’m sure there’s some more stimulating metaphors hidden inside the main hiking theme, but just now the sun went away and I’m freezing. Got to rummage through my backpack for my sweater.

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