No Tresspassing SignWhat does our intrepid explorer, Mr. Mapper of Edges, do when he reaches the outer boundary of the campground? He shrugs his shoulders, turns around and heads home, defeated.

Noooo he doesn’t!

He presses on, just like Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and his rag-tag men after their ship, Endurance, became frozen in the Antarctic ice from 1914-1917. Of course, they were lost, freezing, near death and contemplating cannibalism. I was just tired from a too-long nap.

If I contemplated cannibalism, I’d be eating myself for nourishment to survive my own death. That’s almost like dividing by zero. We can do it, but we don’t know what to do with the answer. We mere mortals don’t deal with infinity well. We don’t handle facing our own death well either.

Speaking of facing my death, I had a dream during that nap that I was dying in Wal-Mart. I was half way across the 2,000 acre expanse between the hardware and the food section, when I felt a tightness in my chest. I had trouble breathing. Gradually, the entire left side of my body went numb.

I pressed on. Like Shackleton in a really cold Wal-Mart, I dragged my left leg like a stump and my left arm swinging limp at my side. No one in the store seemed to notice that I was dying in front of them, and I was too stubborn to say, “Hey! I’m dying in front of you! Haven’t you noticed?”

I became so weak in the dream that I collapsed just in front of the electronics section. Of course, just my luck, I fell with my back to the giant wall of televisions, so I couldn’t see the end of the game.

I struggled to crawl toward the front of the store, not so much because I wanted to live (what are the chances of finding an open cashier’s station with a person actually there anyway), but because I refused to die inside a Wal-Mart. Nothing against Wal-Mart. I don’t want to die inside a Target either.

I crawled across the floor with only the right side of my body working. Several times, my vision grew dim and I almost gave up. I talked myself into continuing, saying, “I refuse to die here… I will not die in this place… Not here… Anywhere but here…”.

With all my strength, I made slow progress by dragging my right forearm across the floor and sliding my right knee forward. Then, in one motion, I pulled with my good forearm and pushed with my good leg, inching closer to the exit, and to a peaceful death.

In the dream, I thought about when I was a younger engineer. I traveled a lot – as in, three weeks per month for several years. I remember many times flying to a meeting or a briefing or a flight test and evaluation event, looking down over the middle of the country or ocean or other continent, and thinking, “I don’t want to die on an airplane going to work. I want to die doing something fun, something I enjoy doing”.

Right in the middle of a dream of being right in the middle of the Wal-Mart floor, struggling like something between a fish out of water and a bug with missing limbs, I thought that, in retrospect, the work and the travel was fun. I enjoyed doing it. Stubbornly, I lived, holding out for something better. Then in my dream, I simply stopped struggling.

Face down in Wal-Mart floor, I heard myself mumble one of the wisest things I’ve ever almost enunciated: “Huh…”. I woke myself up saying, “Huh” out loud. I was lying face down on the camper floor, left arm under my body, numb, and left foot hooked behind my right calf, also numb. My right arm was above my head. Inches from my face was a cat. Her feline thoughts penetrated my inferior human brain. “Idiot ‘master,’ you crawled right past the cat food section. I have needs”.

Sorry! I pseudo-digressed…

So what was beyond the No Trespassing sign that I ignored after my body-numbing nap? Other signs. Let’s call them signs of life. Beautiful stuff, like the other side of the pond …

Campground Pond #2

… ugly stuff, like the remnants of a party long over …

photo(8)… and amazing stuff, like a rope literally tied inside a tree.

Rope TreeI prefer to think that someone tied the rope around a branch on purpose when the tree was much younger and smaller, just so one day years later, someone like me would discover it, like a magic trick that took generations to work, and more impressive because of it.

I don’t want to die here. But I don’t mind living here. On earth I mean.