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Lions Roar : January 2005
30 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 precipitous jumps. Our sky is now another kind of tent: not one that shelters, but kills. The biological health of our planet is in jeopardy because we manage the world only for produc- tion and profit, not for quality of life. Too few remember how to care for the planet, to be heartbroken about anything but themselves. But a broken heart is an open heart. Since we are all one, land, plants, animals, oceans, rivers, glaciers and all sentient beings share equal rights. With that in mind, I traipsed from pole to pole and win- tered in a snowbound cabin in between. My first trip took me to Tierra del Fuego and the tip of Patagonia, where a young friend and I backpacked a seventy-mile circuit around the orange, pillar-like granite peaks of the southern Andes. Emerson said the first circle is the human eye, but so is the planet. They are linked: the one is always beholding the other. I went searching for what the poet Muso Soseki called, “This view of the world without end...”, the one where there is “nowhere to hide.” EL SERON Wild daisies and lenga trees and the winding, milk-green rivers that walk down to the ocean from glaciers. We too are walking. Glaciers have shaped roughly a third of the terrestrial planet. I came of age on John Muir’s trail, climbing sharp arêtes, domed cliffs and the U-shaped valleys between, the floury rivers and string lakes held tight in steep canyons. Our backpacks are heavy and the wind is against us as we head up a steep rise. In my Spanish dictionary the word senda means not only “a path,” but also, “a ways and means,” while the masculine sendero is only a footpath, nothing more. Yet the verb sendear means “to conduct along a path,” and also “to attain by tortuous means.” Perfect. We follow the Paine circuit counterclockwise, and as the days go on, I refer to it as a path that passes with no end in itself and as a circuit of pain. Not just by bodily pain, which at times is considerable, but also the one implied by any cir- cular route consciously taken. Perhaps “circle” is the wrong word. A wheel with broken spokes might be a better descrip- tion, just a body following its feet around. We walk from Hosteria Las Torres, along the Rio Paine, to El Seron. Sun gives itself over to unraveling storms. The river goes dark then brightens to a dull celadon. Storm shadows tint tree shadows. Rain shatters and stutters; guanacos graze. Patchworks of ice—the remains of hanging glaciers—rot away before our eyes. Snow squalls fall flat like bedsheets. As we walk through them, they erase both the sendero and the senda—the path as well as the ways and means. Later, going over a pass, an 80-mph wind tips us over. Laughing, we get to our feet and look up: a pair of Andean condors jump off a cliff—a jutting arête—and float effortlessly. At the end of the day sleep comes easily. I’m tired from traveling and a recent bout of the flu. In the morning I roll the condor feather Gary brought to me inside my sleeping pad, hoist my backpack and hit the trail. Oh, for feathers and wings! Effortless is not how I’d describe myself in the days that follow. Gary and I walk at such different speeds that I see little of him, and for the first time, the age difference between us seems appalling. I trudge and saunter, wipe sweat from my face, and laugh at the poorly working parts of my body, while he’s all grace and exuberance. Usually an hour ahead, he comes back for me at the end of the day and carries my backpack the last half-mile because he’s a fair-minded man and is always looking for ways