Experiencing the wonder of the world with someone you love.
Last night, I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While I’ll likely use another blog post to debate the wisdom of stretching Tolkien’s classic into a three-part movie, I cannot criticize the movie makers for the breathtaking scenery throughout the movie. Filmed in New Zealand, this — and the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy — showcases some of the most stunning backcountry locations in the world.
There’s a scene in the movie when Thorin’s Company (13 dwarves, a hobbit, and a wizard) are traveling along a ridge in the mountains, high above the clouds. The scene, obviously shot from a helicopter, reminded me of two other scenes, one from a movie and the other from real life:
- One of the closing scenes in the 1965 classic, The Sound of Music, when the Von Trapp Family is escaping the Nazis by hiking through the alps.
- A particular moment on my July 2012 helicopter flight over the Cascade Mountains, when I crossed a specific rocky ridge surrounded by low clouds within sight of Mt. St. Helens.
That entire July flight was amazing, but it was this rocky ridge that popped into my mind while watching The Hobbit in a crowded Florida movie theater:
And it brought me to tears. Even as I write this, perched on a stool at the breakfast bar in my mother’s kitchen on a Thursday morning before dawn, I’m all teary-eyed thinking about the amazing things I see and experience almost every day of my life — usually alone.
As I blogged after that flight:
I also felt more than a bit of sadness. There’s no way I can describe the amazing beauty of the remote wilderness that was around me for more than half of that flight. And yet there I was, enjoying it alone, unable to share it with anyone. Although I think my soon-to-be ex-husband would have enjoyed the flight, he was not with me and never would be again. I felt a surge of loneliness that I’ve never felt before. It ached to experience such an incredible flight alone, unable to share it firsthand with someone else who might appreciate it as much as I did.
Over time, I’ve come to learn that it’s more important to experience life than to be a slave to the material things we think we need to survive. I’m not independently wealthy — I do have to work for a living. But I’ve learned to work hard and smart and to live somewhat frugally so my money goes farther. By staying out of debt — and I’ll be completely debt-free (at least for a while) when my helicopter’s final loan payment is made next week — I’m not stressed about having to generate enough income to make credit card and loan payments. I can take time off to enjoy the experiences that make life worth living. In a way, I’m in a sort of semi-retirement where I mix work with play and really enjoy life.
Unfortunately, I’m one of the few people I know who are able to do this.
My choice of career has also enabled me to enjoy amazing life experiences while working. I can’t begin to list the incredible places my work has taken me — or the incredible things I’ve seen from the air and on the ground while simply doing my job. That dawn flight across the Cascades is just an example — I did it for work, to reposition the helicopter for a required maintenance. In other words, it was part of my job. Not only did it entail a pair of amazing flights on consecutive days, but it also included a day spent wandering around Portland, a drive along the coast, a great dinner of oyster stew and fried oysters in an oceanside restaurant, a walk along the beach with my dog, a night in a beachfront motel, a beautiful foggy dawn, breakfast in a historic hotel, and a scenic drive back to the Portland area. What some people might do on a pair of days off, I was able to do as part of my work. How great is that?
What’s not so great is doing it alone.
Although my soon-to-be ex-husband promised me he’d join me on the road during my annual migration to points north — and I worked hard for years to build a business capable of supporting both of us — he backed out with excuses about needing to save more for retirement. I always hoped he’d see the light — and I was somewhat patiently waiting for him to do so right up to the end. The end came, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, when he replaced me with another woman — someone who apparently doesn’t mind watching him be a slave to his material possessions and debt, enjoying life on weekends and during two weeks of paid vacation time each year.
It’s a shame, really. While I feel that life is all about experiences, those experiences are somehow better when they’re shared with someone else. For nearly 29 years, some (but not all) of my best life experiences were spent with the same man who I really thought appreciated them as much as I did: A road trip down the Pacific Coast from Seattle to San Francisco. A motorcycle camping trip down Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah Parkway and back up the Atlantic Coast’s barrier islands. A dash across a mosquito-infested field in the Everglades to a rental car, followed by an intense swatting session. A sunset soak in abandoned hot springs along the Rio Grande, watching wild horses graze in Mexico. A jet ski journey up the Colorado River from Lake Havasu to Laughlin. A river rafting trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. A horseback ride on the beach in Costa Rica. A hike up a slot canyon with friends on the shore of Lake Powell. Time trials at a Bridgehampton race track in my Toyota MR-2. A day spent exploring the ruins of Chichen Itza. A sunrise at Montauk Point, followed by a nap in each others arms on a flat rock overlooking the Sound. An afternoon spent snorkeling in Cozumel. A view of the broken clouds of a marine layer moving in beneath us during a helicopter flight down the coast of Oregon. Long walks on beaches in too many places to count.
These are all memories I cherished, experiences somehow made better at the time because I shared them with someone I loved. Someone I could talk to about them long afterward. Someone who could browse photo albums with me and reminisce about the scenes they captured. Someone who could say, “Remember when we…” and I could remember with him.
That’s all gone now. Yes, I still have those memories, but they’re no longer shared, no longer cherished. Instead, they’re a reminder of how things change, how people grow apart without even knowing it, how love dies, and how easy it is for some people to replace a “life partner.”
I’ll have new experiences and build new memories of the amazing places I go and things I see and do in the years to come. Maybe I’ll have someone to share them with. Maybe we’ll stay together for a long time — long enough for the word “forever” to have meaning to me again.
But I’m certainly not going to wait for that someone to continue enjoying what’s important to me in life: experiencing the wonder of the world. The world is out there now and it’s not waiting either.