Big Horn Mountains: Death Is An Illusion—Amazing

Behold, I Tell You A Mystery
The Trumpet Shall Sound
And We Shall Be Changed

May ’72

My first 6,600 feet up wasn’t too bad. It took me most of yesterday to climb that high. The first eight miles was almost straight up, but
after that it evened out a bit. The traffic was light, so it felt like
I was up in the mountains alone, and I really liked that. I passed a
couple of nice looking trout streams, but I didn’t stop until I got
higher up. Around 3 p.m. I found a stream and started to fish. I
fished the rest of the day and into the night. I only caught one
little Brook trout.

At first I thought I wasn’t catching fish because I wasn’t using a
commercial fishing pole (I had sent my collapsing pole home with
everything else), then I happened upon a couple of fisherman and
showed them the “stick” that I caught my trout on. They just smiled. They hadn’t caught any fish either. I ate my fish for dinner along with some dried cereal sprinkled with raisins. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get to a place where I can eat trout all the time. It’s
sure an emotional trip up here in the mountains.


A lot has happened today, and since I have the time, I’ll put it down.
First off, it has been a fantastic day. In the beginning it was all
uphill, not too much traffic, though, and a lot of scenery. Towards
late afternoon I reached the summit, or at least the top (passes are
usually cut through the lowest part of a mountain range). It was a
long climb; it took me two days of bicycling. The Big Horn Mountains are big. As might be expected, at the pass there was an overlook for people to enjoy the view. On the pass, the snow was four feet deep. On the south side of the peaks, along the edges, the snow had melted, leaving bare rock for me to climb on. I left my bike in the parking lot and started up the mountain. High up along one of the peaks, I found a nice sunny spot and settled in for some quiet time.

When I climbed down, the sun was moving toward the horizon, and the air had turned chilly. In the parking lot, I got on my bike and headed down the mountain. It wasn’t long before I stopped peddling. At first the decent was steep, and the switchbacks were frequent and scary. I knew this was going to be quite a ride, especially when I came to the sign that read, “Down hill next twenty miles.”

I hated to brake, but not braking here, ultimately, would create a
meld of bone and rock that I was desperately trying to avoid. (There was a concern that my brakes would fail, but I tried not to think about it). Soon, the switchbacks going down the mountain lengthened, and the 40 to 45 mph speeds that I had to negotiate became less threatening. On top of the mountain the frigid snow reflected blinding sunlight. At lower elevations, though, the heat from the sun warmed my face. As the sun got closer to the horizon, it added a rich yellow hue to the already spectacularly colored canyon walls, the walls of Ten Sleep Canyon. The vision was as overpowering as it was irresistible.

On wings of light, sailing down the mountain, I lost all feelings of
attachment and weight. The farther down into the canyon I went the more I was filled with the overwhelming beauty of the place. I felt transparent to my surroundings. It was at that time, in the beauty of it all, when suddenly, as if a chair had been pulled out from under me, I felt the contours of my body (my exteriors) collapse. What was left of me after that was/is impossible to describe, but it felt like this: “It was Wow! Amazing! I was upside down and inside out.”

A feeling of “grasping,” of “being engaged” substituted for what used to be my body; but even that connection, that subject-object
connection, was extraordinarily strange because I felt it from the
outside – in, not from the inside – out. I did not fight it. I just
let it happen. In that joyous trembling, throbbing, moment, zooming
down the mountain, with a warm wind in my face and unbelievable beauty everywhere, I metamorphosed into an infinite array of connection with my environment. I had no idea as to what had just happened to me, but it was a fantastically passionate experience. There was no anxiety, fear, or negatives of any kind in it. I had never felt that way before (nor probably will again).

As I reached the canyon floor, I knew that if I died right then and
there, it would be okay. From the vantage point of being inside my
outside environment death had no meaning. It was an illusion. Once I had gotten outside of myself, once I became entwined within the
environment, the Truth that death was an illusion was everywhere
apparent. When I started peddling again it was as if I was peddling in a dream. It took a while to come down, to come down out of that dream. However, on the canyon floor it was 95 degrees and peddling in that kind of heat was a reality check all by itself. When the orange sun slipped beneath the horizon, it was still 92 degrees. Again, it was as if I had just landed on Earth after some intergalactic journey. I acclimated well, though. I came upon a restaurant-bar, and, of course, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to reflect on what had just happened to me, so I went inside and ordered a beer.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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One Response to Big Horn Mountains: Death Is An Illusion—Amazing

  1. bwinwnbwi says:

    “I had never felt that way before (nor probably will again”–yes, very true and very prophetic, but, from another point of view:

    Soul, if that’s what one wants to call “life after death,” has no place to go outside the affirmative ideal! I am not going to argue that there is life after death; but, I will argue that death is a necessary structural condition of human consciousness and hence a condition that implies something like life after death exists. In other words, because self-existent reality—the affirmative ideal—is wedded to what we call reality, I am free to know (and emotionally experience) the world in its worldliness, spatiality, quantity, temporality, and instrumentality because (like blood flowing through veins) a higher reality circulates within all that gets called reality.

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