(Previous Post: Man Against Nature)
Frostbitten Twice Shy Babe
This is me . . . or rather,
this is my left foot . . .
Notice that it doesn’t have toes.
Nine years ago in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, I spent three days winter camping in below zero temperatures with some friends. Our goal was to hike to the top of the highest point in New York, a mountain known as Mt. Marcy and sleep one more night at its base before traveling home to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Nightfall, the last day of the trip, we arrived at the car and I felt sick. My whole body was chilled. My toes felt numb. My friend started the car and turned on the heat, and when the car was sufficiently warm, I took off my shoes and began to rub my feet. At this point I don’t remember if someone turned on the interior light or if I shined a flashlight on my feet, but I remember seeing that both of them were completely white about halfway up. Frostbitten . . .
The right foot completely recovered, the left foot did not.
Psychologically from this event, I find myself more wary of cold weather. I still ski, hunt, and sometimes even sleep out in the cold, but still there is the barrier as if I think someday this weather might take more of me. Picture that scene from Jack London’s to build a fire. I am that guy. That’s how I feel. There is a fear that I carry with me in the winter.
So how do I overcome this fear? Well, some fear is healthy when it respects nature’s own defined boundaries. But I’m also wondering have we lost something in this age of gadgets and industrial wizardry somewhere in the wilderness? Have we lost some sort of physical hardiness and intuitive knowledge that might help us more confidently endure the wilds (including its weather systems)?
Perhaps lending some credence to this thought is the following video from the history channel of a man named Wim. They call him the Ice Man, because he has trained himself to endure climactic conditions that would kill any ordinary human. I know sounds suspect and sci-fi. I was a skeptic as well.
Of course he’s practiced meditation for years, but my point is that this cellular mechanism that he has tapped into seems to be part all of our genetic makeup, at the very least of all the Tibetan monks that have experienced similar results and this man named Wim. Additionally, here’s another interesting blog post on acclimatization by a barefoot runner in the U.S.:
So I wonder have we have lost something as a species, something at the cellular level, something that predisposed our ancestors to be more fit as they endured the brutality of the natural or do we somehow still have the ability to acclimatize and can it be re-trained? Have we physically become soft in our technological advancements, and if so, what else have we lost or given up? I’m not trying to deride technology here, to go all luddite and troglodyte on you, but it’s always good when you make a technological leap to ask not just what you have gained, but also what you have lost.
At the days end, it’s always good to rest your head in your hands, to breathe, to look at where you’ve been and where you’re going and then . . .
just to think.
(Next Up: Domesticated Humans)