I can’t talk about what I want to talk about. My god, it’s a writer’s worst nightmare. There’re roadblocks preventing me from saying anything. So, I guess I’ll just talk about the recent.
Once the weather changes, so too does my attitude. Call it seasonal depression, but it ain’t; that’s a year round issue. A remedy I’ve found is nature, being outside and climbing, getting dirty, and forgetting the trouble that buildings and cities bring with them—if just for a few hours. I’m lucky enough to live in northern New Jersey. To the north and west, the Appalachian Trail gives people like me, and not like me, outlets to distance from an engrained fate. Thoreau and Walden were onto something, though I don’t think I have what it takes to live out here for even a month without losing my mind—more than I already have, that is.
Last weekened, some friends and I visited a cave off the beaten Harriman State Park path. The hike was simple, a 5 minute steep incline to a split rock with crows perched, cawing, watching above us. We climbed over moss, rocks, and March snow left-over in April, coming before a wide mouth drooling with melt.
It’s a simple drive, 45 minutes away from home—far enough to feel like a true-blue explorer. I had quit my job, about 20 minutes from the cave, just hours before the trip. A hostile situation turned worse; I needed to get out of that office before things got worse than they already were. The cave comforted me, let me forget some of the awful memories my former boss tried to leave with me. I’ve noticed that whenever I leave a job, I immediately retreat into nature to lick my wounds or seek new appreciation. It seems to work. Hell, it’s better than lamenting in the dark.
A huge body of thick, cracked ice kept us from the other end of the cave. Hugging its walls, we tried as best we could to get where we could, but pools kept us at bay. After taking our pictures, sitting in silence, and yelling to hear our echoes, A.C. decided to take a shot walking on the ice. We tied some rope around him and he was off, scrambling onto rocks and lunging for a large ice patch, separated by a small body of murky water.
The last two weeks at work were a nightmare, a David Lynchian fever dream. I couldn’t afford to leave after a particular incident, but after voicing my concern, I was stripped of all duties and left to do nothing with my time in the office other than hear about how wrong I am. I had become a problem for my boss, and he looked to remove me in any way he could.
I held the rope taut, situated with my back against a large rock, both feet rooted into detonated clay. I was nervous for A.C., crawling along the ice to reach a walking stick; a trophy from his experience. The ice wasn’t going anywhere, he was safe above.
It’s just me—maybe. It’s not. It’s him. It’s that office. A.C. made his way back to dry land, we untied him, and watched the snapchats Mark and Nikko had taken while he howled from the ice. We left after visiting for about an hour, leaving the cave to its undisrupted silence before other explorers came to check it out.
We drove back, got some barbeque, and I tried to leave the morning’s office hostilities in the office. He called me at some point, but since I didn’t get any reception in the cave, I was safe from his words, his voicemail. I listened against my better judgement, but it was more of the same nonsense. At least knowing I’d never go back there again saved me from headaches I’d dealt with over the past two weeks. At least it meant more time for trips like these, forays into nature with people I care about. It keeps me grounded, keeps me together. I’d spin out of control if it weren’t for nature and kind-hearted people, I’ll tell ya.