Wide Open

Forty five years old. I am not young. I am middle aged. That almost hurts to say, just a little.

It seems like for the most part(for the last 30 years or so that I can remember well), I spent my time rushing from one thing I had to do, to the next, always rushing to get to what I wanted to do next.

What I “want”….  ?  What do I want.. is it odd to have a blank slate here?

Just two years ago, it would have been simple. Skydive til dark, drink and smoke til midnight, wake up and do it again.

Ten years ago, I just wanted a home, steady work, to tuck in my boys at night, and see their smiles in the morning.

Twenty years ago, Oh Lord, twenty years ago I wanted to get married and have a family and was only days away (ha, my anniversary would have been tomorrow; though we only made it to the Iron Age.)

Thirty years ago, I wanted to be free of my parents and school.

What do I want now? A good lunch? I do need to go get another salad for today.

Past that? I do want to travel more, the road trip this year was amazing and I’m already looking forward to duplicating it again. One thing that, sure I ‘knew’ before, yet I think I had a full realization of the concept this year, how wide the world is.

I think the realization occurred when I was when I was on top of Monjeau Peak and had climbed to the top of the lookout there. My legs are so much strong already now than they were then. I remember parking in the small lot at the top, resting a few minutes to destress (narrow curvy steep mountain roads to get to the peak, in my Mustang GT.)

Once I walked and saw them, I was scared. Jagged rough steps, built from naturally shaped stones- no square edges here.  Having been labeled as a “fall risk” a long time ago, it has made me perhaps too overly cautious, maybe.  What could happen, lose balance, fall, trip and stumble down a mountain? Yeah, that could happen.

Holding my cane, and slowly stepping my feet back and forth, deciding.. like a cat waving its tail. What else could happen? Well, it could be fine. I decided it would be fine and I climbed the steps, slowly. I am so glad I did, the view from the top is everything you think it could be.

From the top, I had enough altitude to take a h&p (or a full altitude jump from a Cessna dz,) if I was at a different location. I likely have more time being from 9 to 14k in the plane each jump, that I do in freefall- so maybe 48 hours or more?  The air is thinner up there of course, yet still plenty to keep the brain working well (as it can.) Having already done the math back when I liked to take my HT on skdives, I knew my line of sight from that altitude is past 100 miles.

As I looked to the northwest, I looked for the farthest mountain I could see – if it was at my same altitude, it was roughly 200 miles away. I imagined myself without my car, nothing more than my compass pointing me home.  Climb to the top and line up a sight on the next peak, take the walk and repeat the process. I would need ten mountains that size, to ‘see’ my way home from one top to the next.

A week or two I wrote an article about birds, specifically how they flock. Essentially, each one is just trying to stay with their friends. Which way is the group going? Stay in the middle of your seven closest friends. If you see one of them take a turn, follow along. Don’t fly too close. Three simple rules that produce the flocking behavior that is a majesty to watch.

That had really interested me and with some googling, I found a bird flock simulator. Fun to play with for a few moments, and interesting to see the variables that can be adjusted, and mostly to see the effects on the flock.One variable, the visual range interested me the most. I think it’s approximating the difference between seeing the 7 closest, or 3, or 22.

Since that post, I’ve thought a lot about ‘flocks’. Flocks of sheep, flocks of birds, and packs of wolves (pack, essentially a different word for flock.) And I thought of the different the different types of birds too, and finally that phrase “bird of a feather, flock together”.

First I thought of all the birds and imagined all the types trying to flock together, as if you could forces all the worlds birds into a small area. How would that work? Would, it be a single flock sharing all the rules, or would each bird follow it’s seven friends- of the same feather.

How is the bird to know (think instantly, inflight data) which of the 7 closest birds are, or are not, the same- which does it follow? What about  the bird in the middle (and I imagined Phil Duckham) shouting to the rest, no, not that one, don’t follow that one, he’s not one of us.

Somehow in my mind, I came up with the idea that each and every bird is trying to lead the flock, yet is still leery of leaving the protection of the flock- what if they don’t follow. Thinking of sheep next, it seemed the opposite. So adverse to leadership, they willingly follow any species with just a bit of training- they like to be led. The wolves, each fighting for its position in the pack and keeping the rest inline.

Vague thoughts, just rolling though- it’s almost a complete idea and I can kinda see it too.. I just can’t quite put my keys on it yet.

For every situation I’ve ever been that I thought I could not escape- I did not know how wide the world is, how easily I could see from up there.

Time to go.


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