Nothing is the same. If I was to teach a class about mountaineering, that would be one of my first precepts. No matter how many times you go to a location, it is still the wild, and there is always something different about it: it may be hotter, it may be colder, the rocks may be a little more loose, the route may be harder to find, there may be animals, or that tree that was half fallen may be all the way fallen, or the grass slightly greener, but nothing, nothing is ever exactly the same. It may seem the same, but it is not. Everything is different. Nothing is the same. This is a mantra that helps to keep you alive out in the wild as well. It allows one not to take anything for granted; not to shortcut a spot, use an old hold, or use old protection that should be pulled. Nothing is ever the same.
Aside from keeping one alive, it is the best mantra for the wild, and life, in my opinion that one can have. Nothing is the same. Everything is unique. (http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2010/3/1/interregnum-the-past-is-the-past-the-future-the-future-and-t.html). Sure, it’s hard to appreciate the uniqueness of the third Wednesday of the month at work, in the same way that one approaches an old growth forest that is dusted with dew, but in my book, it’s a universal truth. Nothing is the same. Every unique and different moment of life should be enjoyed, whether it’s pushing paper, or discovering something in a far-far-off land. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to sleepwalk through life. Sometimes, too many irreplaceable things are lost, like remembering a good 7/8’s moon with good company or long lost friends, or who you are as a person. That is why I always try and tell myself every day, that phrase – “nothing is the same”, because even though life may be ghastly and difficult at times, it’s still beautiful – and I wouldn’t want to miss that beauty for anything.
Despite having this as one of my personal mottos, with all of the complicated practical and personal baggage that it brings, when I was on Gorgonio on July 31, 2010, I found myself repeating the phrase in the shadows cast by the gloaming light as the day ended. I could feel the rough rasp of the bark of the tree my hand was resting upon. Nothing is the same, I told myself. I could see the pale blue sky fading behind the black branches and needles above me. Nothing is the same, I told myself. I could smell the musty odor of long decayed plants, the dust of the valley below, and the sweet tang of summer growth. Nothing is the same, I told myself. I could hear the low, almost inaudible babbling of Vivian Creek next to me, speaking of frozen winters, falling rain, and melting snow. Nothing is the same, I wondered.
At this point, I was no longer sure if my eyes were open, shut, or if some cataclysm had struck the planet, and my mind had passed on from my body. The last time I had been on Gorgonio, in 2002, I had stood in this almost exact spot on my descent, and marveled at the timelessness of the forest. I had stopped to pull out my camera, felt my legs complaining tiredly, fixed the aperture, and shot a photograph that still hung on my wall. If I had been in black and white, I would have known that somehow, I had been transported into that picture. I shifted uneasily. I was hesitant to reach for my bag – what if I reached for it, and instead of a digital camera, my old film version fell out? What if, despite what I thought I knew, I was still there in 2002, and had fallen asleep, and the last eight years had been nothing but a detailed dream. Suddenly, I was stock still. All I could hear was my calm breathing. All I could feel was my heart beginning to cycle faster. Was it really 2010? As far as I knew, it could have been any time where I stood.
Then, I heard it: Hi Fi Killers rumbling away into the distance under Rude Boy’s tired legs. (http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2010/8/19/san-gorgonio-july-31-2010-vivian-creek-to-summit-156-miles-r.html). The spell was broken. I felt foolish, laughed at myself, and started moving quickly down the trail after him. Nothing was the same. I told myself as I whipped through the familiar trees. Even though sometimes, it sure as hell feels that way.