I think I have gone full swing into my second mid-life crisis.
Now, donít start telling me Iím too young to have a midlife crisis. I should know best, Iím the one having it, ya folla?
My first was about five years ago, maybe a little more. It was after my father passed away and all I could think about was a sailboat and a long passage. Well, that dream took a backseat for awhile, but the need of a little adventure has reared its lovely head again lately.
It was that trip to Montana that did it, you know. I mean, itís not like Iíve never been out of St. Mary Parish before. Iíve been to Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, California and Georgia. By no means a world traveler, of course, but at least I know that U.S. 90 doesnít begin at Amelia and end at Jeanerette.
But Montana reminded me that thereís a whole big world out there that I donít want to miss. I guess itís partially that and partially just a midlife crisis. I am fortunate in that my midlife crises do not take the form of too-young lassies or fast sports cars. Iím far too wise for that sort of nonsense.
It was exhilarating, though, fishing Otatso Creek in Montana with the knowledge that the area has a high concentration of grizzlies. Not that I actually wanted to see a grizzly, much less get mauled by oneÖbut that little "edge" of knowledge was kinda cool.
So sometimes I get to thinking Iíd like to take up hiking and camping in the mountains or something. Or that Iíd like to embark on some wilderness trek for weeks at a go, fishing in mountain streams and alpine lakes.
But then this little voice starts whispering in my ear and ruins the whole thing. I hate that little voice, though it probably keeps me alive. But it says these things to me, when I start to think about hoisting a backpack full of gear and heading off into the Great Divide:
"Hey, arenít you the one who turns purple in the face when you tie your shoe laces? Arenít you the guy who complains his knees are going? And by the way, when was the last time you headed out for a week or two in the mountains? What are you going to eat? What if you canít find water? What if a grizzly finds you?" And so on and so forth. The thing about those little voices is they are annoying as all get-out, but they probably keep you living longer. Besides, you canít really shoot Ďem, can you?
Still, I feel the need for a little reckless adventure, and by that I mean something more reckless than vigorously tickling Patches in the stomach and yelling "COOTCHIE WOOTCHIE COOTCHIE COO!!!" when sheís sleeping. Okay, thatís pretty darned exciting as well as dangerous, but I mean something else. Yeah, maybe Iím too soft, having lived a life of leisure (insofar as compared to a mountain man, anyway) and maybe Iím a little thick around the midsection, short of breath and thin of common sense, but hey, sometimes you just gotta go for the gusto, right?
Iím not saying I want to go climb Everest. I ainít figuring to cross the Sahara on a camel. But a few days in the Smokies, chasing trout with a fly rod, sleeping under the stars, cooking on an open fire? Why the heck not?
"Because," that little voice says, "what if it rains all the time? What if you spend three days and nights in rain, all your clothes are soaked, your matches are soaked, you canít light a fire, and it keeps on raining and then thereís a flash flood that washes you right down the side of a mountain?"
Well? What about it?
"And besides all that, the fish arenít biting."
Well, there you go.
So instead I sit home and watch The Ghost and the Darkness, A River Runs Through It and Out of Africa on the DVD player and try not to feel like a city slicker who doesnít even live in a city. I am reading Ghosts of Tsavo and learning to navigate by stars, moon, sun and compass but I still canít find my way around Lafayette. I alternate between Fly Fishing the High Country and when I get the time, read news reports of hikers rescued from the Ozarks, rafters pulled off waterfalls by helicopters after tipping their inflatables and "true adventure stories" about a man who was treed by a cougar and lived on pine cones for a week and a half.
But I do need a little adventure, and so someone said to me, "Well, you should take a guided tour. You know, someone who takes a group into the mountains or something. Someone who knows what theyíre doing."
Thatís really silly, when you think about it. "Yes, I am going to go on an adventure, along with eight other people who have never been in the woods before much less in grizzly country, trusting in our faithful guide, as we brave dangers the likes of which we have never, ever encountered in our living rooms." No, thank you. One of these days, Iíll just pack up and head out, clanging pots and pans in a pack along with fly rods, sleeping bag, armed with flint and steel, beef jerky and salt. Theyíll find me, many years later, bleached bones propped up against a tree somewhere in the mountains, with a fly rod across my lap and a sign handwritten on bark, clutched in skeletal hands, reading: "YOU SHOULDA SEEN THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY!"
Itís not like Iím not an outdoorsman kinda guy. Youíd be surprised some of the places Iíve hiked to by myself to fish. Iím surprised sometimes when I think back on it, and that little voice is saying, "Well, it was a miracle we survived that," but then, I know how to get around down here. Itís the mountains, grizzlies and trout thing that gets me. Or the sailing. I like the idea of sailing off into a sunset one day, but that dadblamed little voice is whispering again. "There are still pirates around, you know."
I guess itís really all about getting older, and realizing there are likely fewer days ahead than there are behind. Montana opened up a lot of things for me, not the least of which was the sense that I havenít seen enough of this grand country yet. Yeah, Europe would be nice, Africa awesome, and New Zealand heavenly. But I could explore the backwoods of America for several lifetimes and never grow tired of all the adventures right here.
Okay. So where did I put that elephant gun? Not for the elephants, of course. For the lions. I mean, for the bears. No, thatís not right. For the snakes? NawÖthe wild boars! Yeah, thatís it, wild boarsÖ