MUSING ON THE BIRTH OF PEGASUS
By Carol E.R. Collins
At the writhing head of Medusa
The millennium experts
To carve a smooth transition
To the new century
Stilled by the winged whir
In the airy beginning
To the hooves beating upward
To square off in ethereal constellation
[Published in January/February 2000 issue of The Pegasus Review]
Bronze Bas-Relief created by
Florence G. Raker, my mother
ADVENTURE: AN ESSAY
By Carol E.R. Collins
Recently, TV shows that let their viewing audiences share in the “real” adventures of auditioned participants or vacation tours that take travelers on pre-programmed adventures have been popular. In either case, survival is the goal of the experience. Who will make it to the end? Who has the physical, mental, and social qualities required to win the game?
True adventure, however, happens without design. It is a chance occurrence that is somehow remarkable and often hazardous. It is thrilling precisely because it is unplanned and unexpected. It is about challenge and survival, but the moment we try to force an adventure is when it goes flat.
I will always remember the time I went with the Sierra Club of Northern California for a week’s cross-country hike up Mt. Whitney. I was ill-prepared: I had just come off exam week and was physically exhausted; my equipment was rented and not state of the art; and I had no training for the hike. The club members must’ve known with the first ascent that I was not one of them. However, they accepted me and shared the burden of my lack of preparedness or experience. They carried my backpack and gave me advice along the way.
I had intended this to be a break from the routine, not an ordeal. However, my sleeping bag got wet and would not dry, since it was not stuffed with goose down. For the entire week, I could not sleep in it; and its added water weight increased our burden. Through sheer fear of being left behind, I managed to stay with the group by catching up at the end of each resting point. We reached 13,000 feet above sea level before turning back toward that final bounding step onto solid ground near our waiting cars. At our celebratory restaurant meal, the leader commended me for my stamina and urged me to keep up the momentum by training for future trips.
I didn’t, though, for life’s routine took over again. But I did take home souvenirs: a pair of swollen hands from the altitude and an expanded consciousness. I had learned about hiking over rocks, screeing down loose gravel, and doing a Zen walk across a glacial patch that dropped beyond where I dared to look.
What else did I learn? That adventure starts with a step into the unknown and there the plan ends. It takes off on its own path, which one can only follow without knowing how the terrain will change. It is an experience that doesn’t allow for escape, except through survival, although fellow travelers can help negotiate challenges and hazards. An adventure can never be repeated because it is not a filmed reality show or a programmed vacation. It is experience elevated above, and seemingly divorced from, reality. Still, adventures can happen upon anyone who dares turn from life’s delineated paths and cross over to the unmapped territories of love, work, or play.
[Published in January/February 2005 issue of The Pegasus Review]
Copyright 2019 Carol E.R. Collins
All Rights Reserved
Carol reading Euripides' play Helen
JHU Classics Department