Despite my attempts to keep on the move the whole weekend and today, I am unable to keep the looming war in Afghanistan out of my mind.
I spent today hiking 15 miles at the 6,000 to 8,000 foot level on Mt Hood in Oregon. Above 6,000 feet there are few trees to be seen. Some would call the landscape rugged and barren. Most would admit, though, that there are majestic views of the of the many mountains that dominate the Northwestern landscape.
We, however, hike this area for the sense of sheer, awesome power that the mountain manifests. The landscape is littered with huge boulders thrown from the volcano centuries ago. More recent glaciers carve their own signature on the mountainscape, pushing whole fields or rocks ahead of them. Fast flowing streams carve grand canyons through the volcanic soil, canyons so tall and so steep that they are impossible to safely climb.
Usually these hikes are the highlight of my week, a peaceful, meditative way to get in touch with myself and with nature. Today, though, I was unable to get in touch with nature or myself.
Instead, I spent the day haunted by how much this barren landscape resembled the recent pictures I have seen of Afghanistan. How could anyone exist in this kind of landscape? How could you scrape out a living from these fields that only seemed suited to growing rocks?
The chipmunks that scrambled from rock to rock to escape our invasion into their land made me think of Afghani soldiers who would scramble away from the jets flying overhead. Would they be as helpless as these squirrels were?
As I struggled to keep up with my hiking partner, I wondered how American soldiers would react to this kind of altitude, and whether their inability to react or move as quickly as usual would result in increased casualties.
Swearing off television and keeping on the move have done little to help me escape the depression that has haunted me since last September 11. Maybe I just need to accept the fact that everyone should be at least a little depressed at the news.