April 9th, 2011
The First and Final Question: The Legacy
Some are lost. Everybody wants to be found.
The drive to Parque Patagonica takes seven solid hours, through the most obscenely vast, open landscape in the world. Volcano ice-tipped tops, with crimson covers at the foot, slowly ebbing into the turquoise riverbeds. Steep high hills, cut like glass shards towering into the clouds. So I see: why Patagonia? “Because it is the benchmark for what is wild in the world”, is what Yvon Chouinard says. Perhaps one of the only places left to view what people thousands of years ago saw, a land untouched, and unsoiled by human development.
In April, the colors turn, from ash green to deep crimson and neon yellow. We leave the Evergreen at Pumalin and cross the border into ______. The drive encompasses a lake that lies directly on the Argentinean border, and meets the Baker River a few miles from our destination. We arrive two hours late, dinner on the table. Doug has us staying in the Butler’s house, with some rearranging from Carolina, our trip organizer and Chris Tompkins’s (Doug’s wife) personal assistant.
Here is the thing about the Butler’s house: it’s a **** ing mansion. Doug’s obsession with aesthetics drives people crazy. “It’s almost over the top”, one of the American volunteers says to me. “We spend days rearranging rocks the size of a toddler’s fist.” I get it. In his interview Doug explains to us the value of beauty, and how its power is vastly underestimated. Again, I get it. It has the power to sway minds, evoke feelings and create a sense of place. And that’s what the Butler’s house does. Though the gushing hillside adjacent to the mountain the house is tucked away in, helps. The landscape is completely different here from Pumalin Park. All of a sudden it is dry, the mountainside is orange and barren, large llama-like animals called guanacos roam freely. The completion of the park is almost half of what it is in Pumalin, partly due to the fact that a miniature Ahwahnee stands halfway furnished and windowpane-less in the small valley. Shacks from the former farm are still inhabited by the workers here to finish the building and restoration.
In the morning Dave gets news that one of Chloe’s friends has committed suicide. It’s unclear how much his death affects my good friend, she seeks solace the only way we can a world away ~ in her friends back home, via Facebook. I grieve a little, too, for my generation and the unnamed burden we all seem to bear. For the many deaths in families, friends and acquaintances we endure; I am frightened by this reoccurring trend that is surging though the nation. More and more lost young souls give up the will to live on; I see it come closer all around me, I can almost feel it, perhaps that is what it will take to name it.
I climb to the top of a small peak rising from the valley’s depths, with nothing in hand, and a clear mind. The sun sets at the end of its shallow arc.
When there is nothing more in sight but jagged horizons I look out toward the darkening sky. Here I see things that bring me back to center, hope revives. And if there is one answer to death, I am certain it is this: Nature’s unyielding gift of wilderness. The last of the warming sun, the crystal air, the impeccable silence. I count my blessings; wander back down in a Z line, accept my opportunity, my responsibility to live on. For I am found.