In the glorious indolence of the holidays, the Derringers went out as one to see “Wild” yesterday. (Football? What football?) I told Kate afterward that when I was her age, such a film was unthinkable — or only thinkable if the hero was a man, and what was waiting at the end wasn’t the last stop on a long journey, but a girl in a dress, backlit by the sun. The thought of the main character being a difficult woman, and an unapologetic one at that, would really be too much to expect.
That said, Reese Witherspoon’s woeful lack of preparation for her thousand-mile journey reminded me of our own backpacking adventure on Isle Royale around the same time. We were far better prepared — had done quite a bit of research on packing, load distribution, smart gear and the like — and there’s still no feeling like the first time you hoist your pack, buckle it on and think, dear God what have I gotten myself into? To this day, I read about the 50- or 60-pound packs humped around the Middle East by our soldiers — in 100-degree heat, no less — and wonder how in the world they do it, even being young, strong and male.
Actually, Witherspoon’s character wasn’t really unprepared. She just did the thing everyone does: She overpacked. You think you’ll need all this crap that you don’t need, and by the end of day one, you start making the ruthless choices: We’re eating Rice-a-Roni tonight, because it’s heavier than the dehydrated stuff, for instance.
But the rewards of such outings are considerable. Ten days in the backcountry really has a way of scrubbing your brain, and when you come out? The first meal of fresh food is a banquet set by God himself. (I’m talking about a salad made with iceberg lettuce and the customary pink tomato here.) A shower, ditto. And to shave your legs and put on clean, nice clothes again? A queen dressing for coronation never felt so grand. Picking up a newspaper and catching up on what you missed is similarly surreal, as you feel equal parts I-can’t-believe-I-missed-this-important-news and why-did-I-ever-pay-attention-to-this-crap-in-the-first-place. And then you get on the boat, it pulls out of Rock Harbor, and slowly, slowly, you return to the world.
I liked that both the book and movie spent very little time on what the landscape looked like; there are few lessons on botany and fauna, and a lot of POV shots of boots trudging forward, one step at a time. That’s what backpacking is. You’re a mule, and you see the world from a mule’s perspective. Sight-seeing is reserved for water breaks and rest stops. You look, you think that’s nice, and you put the pack back on, drop your head, and return to trudging.
In other news at this hour, I understand some sporting competitions were held yesterday, and the outcomes were pleasing to many in this and former neighborhoods of mine.
Also, the scolds at Lake Superior State U. got their customary coverage for their silly word list. Here’s some more. I wonder if this list is taught in marketing classes; it should be.
Chapter a zillion in the perils of social-media commentary.
I haven’t seen a story yet that compares with this explanation of how a 2-year-old came to fatally shoot his mother with her own gun at an Idaho Walmart. (She was carrying a loaded handgun in a new purse with a “special zippered pocket” for a weapon. And while it’s unwise to judge people on the things they say in the throes of terrible grief, this takes some sort of cake:
(The woman’s father-in-law) isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, “who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body,” he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.
“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said. “… I brought my son up around guns, and he has extensive experience shooting it. And Veronica had had hand gun classes; they’re both licensed to carry, and this wasn’t just some purse she had thrown her gun into.”
For an antidote, I suggest this Neil Steinberg blog on the same subject.
Happy weekend to all. See you back here after it’s gone.