Friday, February 27, 2015

13. Fresh Air

This is a current photo of the window in my office:
Desert succulents and a WALL of snow.
This does not occur in nature.

I spend anywhere from 8 - 10 hours a day in my office, and the window, as you can probably surmise if you have basic deduction skills, does not open and has not opened for quite some time. I work in a mental health clinic with lots of children, all of whom have all your basic winter illnesses. The same air is circulated, day in, day out. I got horribly ill several times this autumn, but I've been taking probiotics since January and it hasn't happened again, Even if it's just a placebo, it's a pretty great placebo. The bonus of being really gullible is that I can be cured of illnesses just through stupidity! I could treat a broken leg with the sheer force of my dumb will if someone just gave me a couple tic tacs and called them "Leggy-All-Better-Pills."

For comparison, this is the air that I could be breathing:

Have you ever heard someone describe fresh, chilly air as "crisp?" Let's break this down a little bit. Air cannot be hard, because it is air. Air cannot be soft, because it is air. Yes, there is moisture in air, so it can have a bit of a texture, but it is in essence a gas, so it cannot hold very much physical texture without tipping over into being a solid. So why can we call it crisp? That word is a bit of an onomatopoeia* because it's the sound of biting into a fresh, perfect green apple. It sounds hard to me. It sounds like something that breaks perfectly along the seams of juicy cells on the first pull, like cracking ice, the molecules separating along a clean, sheer cliff. 

That's what fresh air is. Fresh air is startlingly, perfectly clean. Each breath feels taking a bite of the atmosphere, way back before our atmosphere started getting pretty messed up. There aren't a whole lot of places left in the world with truly fresh air. It's possible that someone could argue that there's very few places even along the Appalachian Trail where the air is truly, completely clean. It's true that at any given moment you're not all that far away from cars and civilization. But if you're somewhere that has a long distance hiking trail, it has to at least flirt with the idea of being in wilderness, more than half the time. Otherwise, it's a different type of adventure. There are plenty of backpacking trips that take you through towns and across cultures and into the great unknowns of love and community. Those are equally wonderful and important but just different from being out in the woods. 

If you've had the supreme pleasure of taking a deep, full breath of truly fresh air, then you know what it feels like. Now imagine that you can do that every single time you breath, for days, weeks and months on end. 

I never took the fresh air for granted... except when it was a billion degrees and the fresh air felt like trying to swallow whole sticks of half-melted butter. I did take the air for granted a little bit then. But even then I was grateful that it wasn't whole sticks of half-melted butter that had been rolled around in city grime and pollution before I had to eat them. There's always a bright side! 

Why do we hike? Most people would list "fresh air" as pretty high up on their list of compelling reasons to take on the arduous task of climbing a mountain. When you're up there you can see the air for miles around, and finally you're allowed to just be present in your body and take all of it in. 

One breath at a time.

Clever Girl

*Holy crap, I spelled onomatopoeia correctly on the first try without looking it up! Thanks, utterly insane honors English teacher I had in 7th grade! 

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