This entry is part of my journal from Semester in the West. For all SITW journal entries, click here. For all SITW posts, including blog posts I wrote while on the program, click here. To learn more about the program, click here.
camp: Big Pine, California, near Mono Lake
Out here, my body feels like my own. When I’m hungry, I eat and feel full—no deluding myself past hunger with a half-meal of potato chips, plain rice or the remnants of a two-day old stir-fry pilfered from the dining hall. Two hours later, my stomach remains calm—no mysterious pains, no unexplained bouts of diarrhea. I drink tea every day in such quantities that I pee like I’m supposed to—more than twice a day, clear and copious, making the dusty ground smell like it’s just rained. I sleep as close to the sun as I ever have in my life, and when it’s not too cold, my liner and sleeping bag feel more cozy and perfect than the most luxurious bed I’ve ever slept in. Even now, when I’m bleeding, I can barely tell—the cramps that have paralyzed me past the point of walking are completely absent.
Living outside, you feel everything. If it’s cold outside, you’re cold. If it’s warm, you’re hot. If it rains, you get wet. And it’s always dusty, a fine layer coating you, your clothes, books and even choking its way inside your nose, turning your boogers black for weeks at a time.
Here, small things trigger emotions. A single lump of brown sugar dissolving in my mouth or a particularly beautiful sunrise feels like heaven, or at least as close to it as I’m ever likely to be in this life. Similarly, heat or a side glance from someone can ruin my afternoon, causing me to become grumpy, brood and generally refuse to be happy. The good, of course, comes far more frequently and keeps me in a near-constant state of contentment and excitement, alternating between the two sinusoidally as the content of my belly grow and shrink. Out here, food is a constant source of joy. Food nourishes you, leaves you feeling more than just full. Food keeps you going, keeps you human, keeps you humble.