The look of nature that many people know is not what nature looks like naturally, but rather what nature looks like as it reclaims what has been transformed. cumulus clouds of overflowing greenery are not that common in wilderness areas, because any area so blessed with rain as to let the scrub spring up will naturally become covered with trees, which choke off the undergrowth.
The type of thick scrub that grabs at your clothing and gets your socks wet even when it is seemingly dry outside is confined to disturbed areas that have yet to regrow: a product of fire, wind or riparian action. Or, more realistically, the result of human action.
And even though I knew that what was around me was not natural, like most people scenes like this had been my first interaction with the outdoors, so a large part of me still looked on the thick growth lining and threatening to leap onto the railroad tracks that I was walking along as being a sign that I had returned to a more primitive world. Of course I knew that it wasn't natural, just like I knew I was not more than two miles from the highway that entered into a small-town turned exurb. Although I also knew that if I were to slide down off the embankment of these railroad tracks too quickly and turn my ankle, those two miles would certainly be isolation and more enough for me.
I didn't plan on turning my ankle.
The sunny day and the chance to be outside reminded me of some of the carefully-controlled attempts to gently transgress boundaries that had been presented to me as a junior high student. Junior high students are, (amongst many other ways) strange in that their Byzantium social structure has points of suspension. A school year that could be a Cantorian continuum of points of tension and social anxiety could be turned into a mirthful celebration of solidarity just by putting people in a van. Suddenly, in different circumstances, you could find yourself sitting next to someone that you would not normally talk to and talking to them about things you would not normally admit. I remembered one such trip, to a riverside that was really not too far from here, and where the not-actually-very-grand vista and openness allowed a small openness and exploration that was a point of exhilaration and excitement for all of us at the time. And I remember the teacher allowing us to play a Tom Petty tape, all of us feeling that we were quite the rebels for getting to hear a song that talked about “Mary Jane”.
But then, Tom Petty's voice always reminded me of a child who got to go on a field trip on a sunny day.
It was actually another Tom Petty song that was going through my head as I walked along the (mostly) abandoned railroad tracks, looking for a (mostly) deserted bridge where I had a good chance of meeting someone who I had mixed feelings about wanting to meet. To wit: “I don't know what I am going to do”
Rather than being an idyllic teenager out for a stroll, I was actually a ninja. A ninja with REAL. ULTIMATE. POWER. And a basho in one hand, as well. None of which would really help me with what I really wanted to do, but it is good to hold something in your hand when faced with dilemmas.
The bridge was around a small bend, and as soon as I passed it, I saw her there on the bridge, quite defiant, or what untrained people expect defiant to look like.
“What are you going to do?” she asked, smirking at me.
Some ninja, singing loudly under my breath on the way to a vital confrontation.
I just kept on walking towards her, humming, and with the utmost casualness pushed a foot behind her heel and sent her sprawling, her hands landing on the hard creosote soaked railroad ties of the bridge. It was an under-pony-truss, meaning that if she didn't watch how she landed, she would go over the side of the bridge.
She sprung up quickly enough, ready to look offended at being pushed over, but not smart enough to be mad at being endangered. She pulled out her basho, and chose to express her frustration or petulance by stabbing it towards me. I blocked, of course. Despite my habit of humming and fears of turning my ankle, I still overmatched her here. I don't know if she knew that, or cared, but I lazily and happily batted away what she threw at me.
It would be great if I could say that while this was going on, we also had a philosophical debate. One that would be as subtle yet energetic as the precarious back and forth we were making on the bridge. One where I wouldn't worry about twisting my ankle, but rather would say the philosophical equivalent of “You are forgetting one thing --- I am not left handed”. And one that would, in the fashion of time, answer all questions. It was never explained how much time was needed to answer all questions, and if time can be divided into instances of pure awareness, there is no reason that two or three minutes worth couldn't have as many of those instances of answering than the time it took for the last speck of K-40 to dissolve into Argon and slip invisibly into the atmosphere.
And we have already had the debate before, many people have had the debate before. An abandoned railroad bridge was a great place to have it again, with the obvious link to Heideggerian views on the extraction of nature. Which views Heidegger actually presented in the form of long digressions on the forms of verbs in languages that I didn't speak. And despite my ability to multitask, I wasn't really in the frame of mind to conjugage irregular German verbs. And, I didn't need to, my irritation with the girl swinging her basho around heedlessly could be phrased without resort to such complications. Like Chuangzi, I knew it because I was here by the river. Unfortunately, while this may be an epistemological method that works modus tolens, it does not always work modus ponens, meaning there would be no assurance that even in aforementioned K-40 dissipating times, there would be any flash of insight merely from being by the river.
Which is why I stopped playing, swept the girl off her feet (allowing her to think for a moment she would fall into that slow muddy river), grabbed her sword, and walked away. I don't know it would prove, but I had had enough this day, anyway.