On Getting Lost
It was early June, and the trail had seen only a few hikers this season. This of course meant that the Chilliwack valley was a mess with dense overgrowth covering the trail. I was on day three of my Copper Ridge Loop hike and was setting out from Indian Creek Camp.
The map showed two river crossings before seven miles of a 4000 ft elevation gain. The thing about river crossings is that it can be difficult to pick up the trail on the other side. Rivers will change in both depth and in course and with that the banks will shift and a place that at one point was possible to ford may not be anymore. This causes hikers to beat a path up and down the bank looking for the best way to cross.
I came to the first crossing where the trail ended right at the water and it took me a few minutes to convince myself that I hadn’t made a wrong turn and then a few more minutes to spot the trail on the other side. Shoes and socks came offend I waded through the thigh deep water which was ice cold having just been part of a glacier only a little while ago.
On the other band, I dried my feet and with my hiking boots back on, I continued down the trail, or what I thought was the trail. After several minutes it suddenly ended. I doubled back a little ways until I saw a path of sorts that could be the trail, so I pushed my way through the brush to get to it and then continued down that path only to find that it too was not the trail.
I continued in this pattern of doubling back and meandering for a good fifteen minutes at which point I decided that I was good and lost, and that I had no idea where I was going. I knew that I was on an island in the middle of a river. I knew I could find my way back. It would be time consuming as I was a stranger here, but I was confident that I could find my way back to the bank and while the water may be too swift or deep to cross which would temporarily strand me, that with a little patience a crossing could be made at which point I could then intersect with the trail that I had hiked in on. This wasn’t really what I wanted to do and even then it was still possible for me to go astray. As far as I knew, I was nowhere near the trail, and I hadn’t the slightest clue where to find it.
Many years ago this would have caused a panic in me, but on that day I felt a sense of peace. I was smiling. I was feeling joy. What a wonderful place to be a stranger, and I was a stranger having never hiked this trail before. What a wonderful place to be lost. It was beautiful here! The morning light through the trees, tall and strong. The murmur of the nearby river. The cool breeze. The sound of birds. I was alone and hadn’t interacted with another soul that day. What a wonderful place to be lost. What a wonderful opportunity to experience and enjoy everything around me.
The past several pieces I’ve written, and in the one I am currently writing, I’ve tried to create a space in the music for the listener to get lost in. In Treescape I even wrote into the score, 'lost, not wanting to be found,' as performance notes for one section.
It occurs to me that this obsession of getting lost has been with me for a very long time. As a young boy I would often wander off into the woods and fields behind our house. I was constantly getting lost in the woods with friends and we would wander around until we found our way back. With one such occasion, a friend and I decided to make the journey down three miles of creek from his house to mine. We did so without telling our parents but by that time my mother was pretty used to not knowing where I was. This of course leads into the time on a mission trip to Mexico when I had wandered off onto the property where we sere staying. The other members of our group became a little anxious at this, but my mother’s response when asked about my whereabouts was simply, “I’m sure he knows where he is.”
Even in my approach to music can getting lost be found. I will occasionally find a piece that I will spend months with, and listen to almost nothing else during that time, though I think this is common for many of us to a certain extent. Learning a piece takes me longer than most people because I can’t help myself but to play a certain section over and over for weeks making sure to get completely lost in the material before moving on to another section in the piece. And in composition, I will improvise and keep something in my fingers sometimes up to a year before writing it down. Being lost is part of my process, as well as the result.
In my view, the result in composition goes beyond minimalism, or at least the traditional beginnings of minimalism. It’s not about the process of material that keeps me there, it’s about the sensation created by the material and the desire to experience that sensation, to be lost in that sensation just a little longer.
Even so, we all have to leave at some point. We can only be lost for so long before that place becomes familiar. I did eventually find my way back to the trail. When I came to the second crossing it took me a few minutes to pick where it continued on the other side and then a few more minutes to convince myself that it was indeed the trail that I was looking at on the far bank. This crossing was a little rockier so I kept my boots on, and on the far bank I switched socks, got most of the standing water out of my boots and continued up the grueling seven miles of trail and 4000 feet of elevation along Copper Ridge and to Copper Lake which was a place where I wish I could have gotten lost. I did in a way, as I spent a bit of time there. Maybe being lost doesn't just mean you don't know where you are. Maybe it can also refer to time spent in a place, even if it means your stranger status is no more.
Copper Ridge, I am no longer a stranger here. I would experience you again.