Monday, November 11, 2013

175. Audiobooks on Rainy Days

There were some days when I would wake up and know for certain that it was going to rain. We couldn't access weather reports, so we didn't usually know what was in store for us. However, as my body began to settle into the habitat of the wild, so did my mind settle into a heightened understanding of small hints and clues about what the sky was going to do. I wasn't consciously aware of the little things that my mind was picking up on, but they would all secretly coalesce into an overall, basic understanding: Either I'm going to be soaked with rain or soaked with sweat. I was like the elderly wise woman in storybooks whose old bones could tell when the thunder was coming.

Hiking in the rain was often thrilling, but that will be its own post. Today we're going to talk about the days when the rain was simply wet. The days when no matter what we did, absolutely everything we owned got as wet as if it had been thrown overboard into the middle of the ocean, immediately snagged by a giant squid and dragged down to the echoing depths of the deep sea. Those were the days when hiking became only marching. The days with no views to speak of, as the sky blurred itself into a muted gray blanket. The days when the idea of getting out of your tent felt like willingly walking the plank.

Not everyone brings an mp3 player with them on the trail, and I completely respect that. I think I would have survived just fine without one. If I had hiked in the 1980's and my only option was to bring a walkman and a suitcase of cassettes, I would have abstained and been perfectly happy. But if I had hiked in the 1880's, I would have possibly considered hiking with a phonograph and a set of gramophones. Just because. When your pack already weighs 100 pounds because it's the 19th century, what's another 75 pounds of pack weight?

I found that having an mp3 player was sometimes exactly what I needed to keep my brain functioning. I rarely listened to it because I wanted to save it for when I really needed it. 

The mp3 player became a respite from the trail; a few hours of escape. And there were only a few times when I needed that escape. Being able to sink my mind into a story being dramatically read to me was sometimes exactly what I needed. It kept me from ever letting those bad days days become potential quitting days. In fact, I don't even want to call them bad days. I'll call them slump days. Because that's the sound it would make it my head as I would trudge through the mud. Slump. Slump. Slump.

I actually had very little music on my mp3 player, mostly I had only audiobooks. I also, strangely, didn't download any podcasts. Mostly it was just books I had wanted to read. I wanted to have just enough to carry me through the trail for the times I needed it - and not so much that I would be tempted to constantly have my headphones in and miss the sounds of the natural world around me. Sounds such as my own heavy breathing and nearby thru-hikers belching. Humans are beautiful creatures.

Here are the audiobooks I "read" while on trail! It may seem like a lot, but I'll remind you: it was 6 months! So time spent listening wasn't that high. I liked all of them quite a lot.

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
3. Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
4. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
5. The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
6. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
7. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Since finishing the trail I have continued to read the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, as well as the Ender-verse series. 

There is something wonderful about an audiobook. Reading is the best, of course. But the very beginning of human interaction and community began with storytelling. When a story is being given to you, not just through the written word, but the spoken word, there is a different bridge to imagination. A bridge that can, just for a little while, take you out of your rain-soaked, dirty, gross thru-hiker life and transport you to the stars.

Clever Girl 

1 comment:

  1. The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, read by the author Douglas Adams, is one of the best audio books of all time. Loved the calculator that was fully functional up to the number 4, after which it simply showed "a suffusion of yellow." Many things in life would be better portrayed as a suffusion of yellow...