Musings of Mad Max
April 26, 2006
Although we often take them for granted, we live in a world defined by mechanical contraptions of comfort and leisure that baffle the imagination. Our culture looks like something out of a ’70s sci-fi film where intelligent machines have taken control over the docile and inexpressive humans.
Our dependence on technology is staggering, from the instant fire that cooks our food, to the motorized chairs that deliver us to the top of mountains, to the enormous vehicles that we refuse to live without despite their indisputable detriment to our planet. Like bears for honey or mice for cheese we are fools for comfort, and in many ways we have become more attached to our material comforts than to the very earth that makes possible our existence.
Nature is there on the weekends, but the majority of life is spent removed from the natural world, staring at computers and televisions, at cell phones and iPods. Yet regardless of our desire to control every aspect of life, we are still instinctual animals defined by natural desires and tendencies.
Most animals slow down for the winter, even sleep through it, and although humans manage to trudge through it (especially in Tahoe), there is a definite change of pace felt even by the most religious of snow worshipers. Our ambitions dim, our dispositions sour, and at the end of it all we have to send hard-earned money off to a corrupt government. After a long winter we’re ready for a change and for all the promise and possibility that spring carries with it.
Even in Lake Tahoe, winters can be long. The daylight hours dwindle to the point where workers leave home before the sun has peaked over the mountains, and they return cloaked in the same darkness. Impassable mountain roads imprison us in our skier’s paradise, but even paradise can be trying without the freedom to escape.
Small towns become even smaller as lonely males wonder if they’ll ever encounter another female and lonely females yearn to come across a single male without drool encrusted on his face or a disturbingly desperate look in his eye. People tire of broken heaters and frigid beds, of monotonous jobs and insufferable coworkers. And like a played-out relationship, even the fluffy white stuff can fail to excite.
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We sink into the comforts of artificial light and point-and-click entertainment, while ignoring the need for community and social interaction that defines us as a species. Tempers shorten, patience recedes, and all too often we turn into darker versions of ourselves. No wonder so many animals hibernate.
Consider hibernation: Following three months of incapacitation the body slowly begins to stir once more, to rejoin the world around it and to recommence a vital life following a well-needed rest. Possibilities are endless and hope is boundless.
Humans might not shut down for entire seasons, but as natural beings we can’t help but experience a rebirth when spring finally arrives. Added hours of sunlight are accompanied by bigger plans and wilder ambitions. We plan trips and adventures, attend barbecues and music festivals, and we re-engage with the world that we’ve done so much to avoid throughout the winter months.
We get muddy on trails and wash off in streams, and we legitimize lengthening the intervals between showers. We remember to be kids, and our eyes widen with the opportunities that lay before us. If this is just spring, think what can happen with the summer!
It may seem absurd to portray winter as a period to be endured in a place where much of the population migrates exclusively for that season, but many of these people are pausing travelers and not long-haul residents. Ask a member of the latter group about a Tahoe summer and they’ll pause, look into the breaking clouds, and tell you unimaginable tales of the months to come. They’ll describe days spent roaming the pristine lake followed by nights lit by crackling campfires, and they’ll tell it with the glee of a feverish camp counselor.
What they are describing is an escape from the contraptions that so often tend to dominate our lives, a drive towards the world that we so often fail to see. This is the magic of the spring ” impossible is melting away and there’s no telling what will flower in its place, but whatever it is we know we’ll be rolling in it like a bunch of freshly awoken bears house-sitting for swarms of vacationing bees.