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Today is September 27, 2020

Outdoors

A new year (and things I like)

By Tony Kinton

A new year (and things I like)

I like to climb a mountain. Not that regimen that employs crampons or carabiners or ropes. I elect the more gradual — an obvious woods road or trail, climbing that requests stamina but does not demand enhanced dexterity. And elevations are not crucial. While that above-timberline business has an allure unto itself, 1,000 feet is more than adequate. But adequate only if that height affords a vista, a spot from which I can look down.

Down there are the things I left behind, things that while I was down there seemed essential, things that occupied time, things I did but did not want to do. Simple falderal of too much muchness. William Faulkner wrote in his work “Big Woods,” “… whole puny evanescent clutter of human sojourn …” Looking down on things below morphs perspective brings to realization genuine reality. Assumed essentials become extras while looking down from a mountain.

I like to sleep in a tent. Even those small backpack units and sleeping pads are acceptable, but I now much prefer that reliable standard of canvas. A big one with walking-around room. And a cot. Age and discerning tastes dictate such amenities.

The world is simply not the same when absorbed from a tent. It is earthy. It whispers of the natural. Speaks gently of the past. Shouts to remind its guest of the future. A cricket chirping inches away. The howl of coyotes busy about their business of life. An owl hooting. These are contemplative, ecclesiastical. When heard from a tent, anyway.

I like to sit alone under an African night sky. There is no night sky like an African night sky. The Southern Cross always captures me. Seen by some perhaps as simply a constellation, I see it as a reminder of the only thing of lasting importance. I sit and look until I recognize, again, how terribly small I am.

And the sounds below that sky? Engaging. Frightening. But look up long enough and a transition occurs — not in surroundings, but within the core of that observer. Danger, while real and present, tiptoes across that threshold separating rigid angst from fluid acceptance. Blue-cold fear is quietly painted over by an invisible brush and becomes an aquamarine serenity -— under that African night sky.

I like new years. Though they remind me that I am no longer new, I like them just the same. And if I circumvent some bleak tendency toward being jaded, that newness of the year radiates hope. Hope is good. And a new year, quite often these days reminds me that I have far fewer new years ahead of me than I have behind me. And I have even come to like that well enough.

 

Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

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