Peter Pan Was a Pothead?
By Will Baker
About twenty years ago I found myself coming abruptly awake curled up in the front seat of my ancient American Motors Rambler Ambassador. I was shivering uncontrollably, and I do believe that that is the reason why I awoke. The car was parked at a pull off in the middle of the Great Salt Lake Desert, the vast unforgiving ocean of white sand that extends from horizon to horizon in the state of Utah. The previous day, my partner and I had driven non-stop from California heading east, and the car would go no further without rest- the steering column had gotten hot to the touch.
The desert is a funny place, with scorching temperatures during the day and nights that are frosty cold, and it had been chilly that night. Anyway, I remember waking up, and throwing my coat over the sleeping form of the young woman who lay on the seat next to me. I got out of the car and walked about. The sun had not yet broken over the horizon, but there was evidence of her intent to do so-the sky was becoming lighter in the east, as if it were beckoning us onward in our travels with the promise of a new day. I let the small dog out of his resting-place in the back seat, and while he took care of his business and then sniffed about I sat on the hood of my car and smoked a joint.
The sky overhead was a bluish black, and the stars shone with an intensity that one cant find in any other place than a desert or at high altitude. Anyway, as I sat there, I remembered thinking about what my life might be like in the future. I was young and full of promise. And for me, literally and figuratively, a new day was dawning.
And as I sit here and pen these lines, in the twilight of my thirties, I cant help but compare the fellow, that dear friend of mine who sat there on the hood of that old beat up car smoking pot in the middle of nowhere, to what I have become. And I wonder what that young buck might think of me. Would he dismiss me as a joke, as just another clueless old man? Would he even take the time to talk to me? Well, I do not know the answers to those questions, and it bothers me some.
I recently had a chat with a close friend. She was teasing me about my age, telling me that I am probably experiencing a mid-life crisis. But she was actually quite gentle about it, implying that it was probably a minor one. I asked her why and she explained that it occurred to her that I was an aberration, in that I was akin to Peter Pan. It seems that, at the relatively advanced age of forty she feels that I am still in touch with my youth, but able to function as an adult, and that I seem to be able to shift between those two "worlds" without experiencing a great deal of angst over the matter.
And as I recall her words I cant help but remember that moment in the desert all those years ago, sitting there shivering, watching the sun come up. And as the sky changed as a result of the introduction of the light of day, I sensed that it was time to move on, to continue that journey east. But when I recall that period of my life, that time of restless travel, I am struck by what I remember and by what I have forgotten. For I can clearly recall moments during that journey, but for the life of me I do not know the exact reason why we chose to go east at that particular moment in time, and maybe that is the way that it should be. And it occurs to me that it is possible that that journey might be a metaphor for my life. For I believe that if the goal is true actualization, then the destination can not be as important as the journey, because the destination might actually exist within the context of the journey itself.
And as for Peter Pan: well as my friend reminded me, even he had his troubles, and was confronted by hard choices. A mid-life crisis, I dont think so, but perhaps I am experiencing crisis in every moment. For it seems to me that crisis implies change and opportunity. And isnt that really what life is all about anyway?