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Field Program


Hitch #10 Immersion

A group sits on a porch of a cabin, smiling. There is a yellow lab.

I’d like to start this, my final hitch journal, with a short excerpt from Mary Oliver. I remember reading it a long time ago along the banks of Parson’s Spring on trail #693 in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, with the sun shining clear through a smokeless sky, the Bitterroot Wall rising like a promise to my East, and two of my crew, Dov and Bailey, wondering what being in that place at that time means.

“I ask again: if you have not been enchanted by / this adventure—your life—what would do for / you?”

One thing about Immersion is that, once in, any thought of a ‘return’ to normal life is unimaginable. To live that long in the Wilderness is to dream a dream of life. Everything beyond those pardonable, arbitrary political boundaries separating this piece of land from all others simply falls away into conjecture. A letter every two weeks from someone dear (mom, dad, grandma, friends, ~lovers~) is the only reminder that you still exist to the human world. That’s the enchantment of it all. Of course, I don’t in any sense wish to trivialize the Immersion experience by labeling it a ‘dream.’ It is more a revelation. The perpetual din of the Selway; of Moose Creek down in the canyon; the dome of azure across the sky in all its oppressive, wondrous glory; wolves crying in the night; a solitary bull elk ringing the bell; writing and reading by lamplight with strangers-turned-siblings under the full glare of the Milky Way. Revelations, though, demand change. Whatever made sense before is no longer relevant. A new code, a new rigor, a new modus vivendi staggers into the heart. Simpler times ahead. A clarity in the mind and a sharpened sense of self-respect. There are higher principles to live by. What I am now and who I was before are stretched taut over a widening gulf. Rilke says you must change your life. I’d like to think we did. Maybe you will, too.

(The included photo is our crew on the porch of the host cabin with our beloved Fred and his dog, Lily. Bless the both of them. From L to R: Dov, Tyler (me), Cait, Fred and Lily, George, Gabe, and Bailey.)