Making Sense at the Lake


This story takes place in September of 2015 at a place that I call “Discovery Lake”. There are no trails to Discovery Lake, but I had bushwacked there twice before (so I thought I knew how to get there).

It took me 2 full days to get to the lake. Day One was a bit frustrating because I used my vague memory from a previous trip 7 or 8 years ago to navigate some of the deactivated logging roads with my mountain bike. The only problem was that the road system had changed over the years and I ended up spending 2 hours riding my bike up the wrong road. I finally found the old road that I was looking for, but it was now late in the day and I ended up making a “dry camp” (i.e. a campsite with no running water).

Near my “dry camp” (no water source), morning Day Two.

Day Two was also a bit frustrating. The bushwack was tougher than I thought it would be, and the navigation took a lot longer (considering that I had been in this area before). But I did finally get to the lake late on Day Two. The lake is at an elevation of 8000 feet.

So, as I say, Day One and Day Two were a bit frustrating and they were also physically demanding. But this sets up the context for the rest of the story.

My camp, morning of Day Three… after two demanding days.




I woke up on the morning of Day Three and wondered why the trip was turning out to be so tough. But then I thought “What the heck … I’m camping at a nice, remote lake at 8000 ft. and the day is dawning sunny and clear. Things are looking up”.

I began my morning "coffee ceremony" (kind of like a Zen Tea Ceremony).  
I gathered all my coffee gear from the food hang and started my morning ritual -- everything in its proper place, everything progressing in a familiar, sacred rhythm. 
I made a really good cup of coffee and then I went down to the lakeshore to drink and to write in my trip journal.
It was then that I felt a "shift".  Something moved within.

At first I thought it was just the caffeine kicking in … but this was different. I my trip journal I wrote:

This morning’s coffee ceremony … right here, right now. I feel “time deepening”, like the present moment is being “expanded”, containing more depth, more texture.

This moment makes all the trials and tribulations of the past two days worth it.

In the depth of this moment I feel a clear sense of “certainty” … I know that things make sense (even the past two days). There is a positive meaning to things. My tent makes sense, my camp stove and my coffee cup make sense, my hiking boots make sense. What I mean is that everything around me — the tent, the cup, the lake, the larch trees turning gold, etc., all fit together. This experience is a moment of sense-making.

This is both a “ordinary” experience and an “extraordinary” one. It is ordinary in the sense that I have coffee (or tea) every morning, and my coffee ceremony is a regular habit with very predictable actions. And this is also an extraordinary experience in that there is another realm involved.

William James would say that there is a certain “mysticism” in this experience. And I would say that any kind of mysticism that goes along with a good, strong cup of coffee and sitting at the shore of an alpine lake in the fall is okay in my books!

One of the things that struck me about this experience was the element of “certainty” (mentioned above). William James said that these kinds of experiences have a “noetic quality”. He says that they are:

“… states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance … and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for aftertime”.

— William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (published 1902).

It was as if he was sitting right beside me having his own cup of coffee!

Here is the main point of this story (for me anyways). I have a lot of extraordinary experiences on my adventure trips. These experiences are a big reason that I go on my trips. They provide a certain kind of clarity and certainty … and this clarity and certainty persists “for aftertime” (meaning well after the trip is done).

So … here’s an experiment. Maybe you could go make yourself a nice cup of coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate) … and then return to your computer and look at the picture of Discovery Lake from my trip in 2015 (see below). And then see if things start to make a bit more sense.


One response to “Making Sense at the Lake”

  1. Mr Musser. Thanks for sharing your deep moment. You leapfrog the difficulty of expressing transcendent connection with earned humility – You have what it takes – from the little that I read – keep it coming!

    Like

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