.99… = 1

June 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I spent last weekend on the Swift Reservoir on Mt. St. Helens. My buddy owns some land up there, with a little cabin and a sauna. No running water or electricity, but there is a sauna. My friends have their priorities straight.

After a day throwing knives and getting good and sauced on cheap whiskey we headed up to a place called the Ape Caves around 11 pm or so, when we’d be sure to find the place deserted of tourists and rangers. The Ape Caves are these monumental lava tubes that wind through the innards of the volcano like huge empty arteries or decommissioned subway tunnels. They drip with water, but are too recent in formation to have stalagmites/cmites. There is no outside light. The air gets that airplane quality once you get a quarter of a mile or so in. When you’re in a lifeless place you can feel it viscerally in your body. Like every cell is suddenly alert to the fact. It isn’t a reasoning out that gives one the knowledge that time in this place is necessarily limited. We are only visitors here.

It should be noted that there were no actual apes in the caves, though we did make an obnoxious amount of ape noises while spelunking through them.

When you reach the end of the upper cave, which honestly could not have come soon enough by the time we reached it (caves will do something to a person in a sort of The Shining way, which, when your camping and everyone is carrying hatches and knives, is not indefinitely sustainable), you climb out a tiny hole and emerge on the mountain face, covered in snow, beneath a sky so clear and densely populated with stars you wonder how it’s possible you spent so much time underground and seemed to get closer to the atmosphere. In Portland you can’t see the stars for the lights and the clouds. But out here, here on this still smoking volcano, you can look up and see an uncountable number of suns, some long dead, others just born, and you can bathe yourself in that wonderful feeling of smallness, of temporality, of insignificance, of being made of such little matter, of futility. And there is no feeling more relieving, more comforting, more reassuring then looking into the heavens and taking in their size and actually feeling that sense of not mattering – of mattering so little that it reaches almost nonexistence, in the way that .99… = 1. One is unborn or dead for so very long it’s almost as if we never live at all.

Finding your way around a mountain in the dark is no easy task, and I was glad to have my compass.

The next morning we made pancakes using a Batter Blaster, which is essentially organic pancake batter in an Aresol can. They were delicious. Not always does technology give me Weltschmerz. I’m letting myself, slowly, recognize this and allow it. It is not easy.

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