Adventure

"An adventure remakes our sense of our place in the world. Adventure is the shock and the terror of the new. That’s what we seek, isn’t it?"
Steven Scher Steven Scher
Mountaineer magazine author and UW teacher
April 17, 2018
by Steve Scher

Adventure comes to us all, ready or not. We just have to be ready.

I remember taking my babies out onto the street for their first walks. They gripped my thumb and stutter-stepped along the sidewalk into a whole new world. Each crack in the pavement, each bud on a bush — new and amazing. A walk around the block could take 45 minutes. 

Everything was worth exploring.

My good dog saw that world that same way, each and every day from puppyhood to old age. The nose sniffed out the most profound changes to his world. Every leaf told of some beasts’ passing, every post and pole marked the start of a story. 

Even in his last months that drive never ebbed. Blind, deaf, his back legs so weak a soft breeze would topple him, all he had left was his nose. He plunged his long black snout into flower heads. He burrowed into leaf piles. He rooted around boxes piled by garbage cans. He laid furrows into grass strips. He plowed the passage of time itself.

That’s what an adventure does. It rewires time. An adventure remakes our sense of our place in the world. Adventure is the shock and the terror of the new. That’s what we seek, isn’t it? Something new, something awesome, something sublime, something that takes us away from the tediously familiar, even at the risk of our safety.

But damn the dangers, full speed ahead. The twists and turns of the ski slope, the finger numbing grip on the rock face, the wind that whips, the waves that topple — these are the very stuff of adventure. We are on the prowl, and like any predator all that matters is the hunt. Does a wildebeest herd frighten a lion? Does a wolf wonder whether tackling a moose will hurt? No more than a climber doubts her ability to conquer that peak or a bicyclist his ability to make it through an intersection. No room for doubt in that instance. The scent of the chase is thick in the nose, the body is awash in epinephrine and the mind is blank but for the wonder for something profound.

Like the taste of blood.

I felt something akin to wonder a few months back as I hurtled into the windshield of an oncoming car and flew out over the road. As I floated in the air for those few seconds, my arms heavy, my body light, I was bewilderingly giddy. The world was gray. I could have been up in the clouds. I was free from the tethers of gravity, unbound to any concerns. 

When I came to, sprawled on the street, the blood poured from my smashed nose into my eyes and blinded me. My arm throbbed, my knees crackled, my chest burned. And my head... Well that phrase, “you had your bell rung” is the truth that shapes the cliché. I was the cartoon wolf who’d had his head smashed between two cymbals. I was the coyote holding on to an anvil, plunging into the canyon. I was the guy in the wingsuit who’d just clipped the rock ledge. 

But I was alive. I could wiggle my toes. My bike helmet was in pieces, but as the cops and the docs and the nurses kept telling me, it had saved my life.

My concussion eased, my bones healed, my scars will tell my tale. 

I’d rather have chosen my adventure than have it crash into me, but those are the risks we run. Every step renews the world or sweeps us off. 

I remember as a young boy, rushing towards the viewpoint of the Mississippi Palisades. My mother shouted, my father shouted. I ran. My dad grabbed me just at the cliff’s edge. Would I have fallen? Would I have taken that next step out into the air? I don’t think so. But what did I know? I was only a child, ever seeing the world anew. My father, as he grabbed my arm and yanked me back, could only see me plunging over the side.

I felt that way each time my boys went off to school. They walked off alone down the same street we had walked together discovering the new world with each step. But when they took off down that street, the adventure of independence rioting in their brains, I only saw the dangers all around. Even today, as one bicycle’s off on a road trip to San Diego, and the other pedals through the heavy metal machines in San Francisco, they see adventure. I see the dangers. 

That’s the world we live in, a riot of dangers and challenges, of accidents around any corner, of exhilaration down any path. 

On his last adventure to the wilds, my old dog could smell the elk in the field. He couldn’t see them, but he knew they were near. His weak legs couldn’t take him down the hill, but gravity could. Nose to the earth, he stumbled and tumbled, flopped and fell down the slope. At the bottom, he couldn’t untangle himself enough to stand, so he lifted his snout instead and inhaled the ever amazing world.


This article originally appeared in our Fall 2016 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.
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