• Charles H Coutts

Personal Logs... Memories

"...You Just Have To Choose It"

Far too often my thoughts find themselves pondering all of the things I will never get to do again because of my disability and it's a sure pathway to depression for me. However, I have found a way to at least come to terms with it as best that I can anyway and each time I do it gets a little easier to push the depression aside.


I think about how I will never get to load a pack and disappear for a while into the wilderness like I used to. I had plans to do that at least a few more times hopefully but it is no longer an option now. That makes me sad to think about on a very deep level. But instead of thinking about all of the places I will never get to see now, I make myself remember all of the places I have been fortunate to see with my own eyes because there are a lot of people who have not been as fortunate as myself.

Though it was not Denali, Everest, or anything so grand I have climbed and stood atop more than one mountain and overlooked the world below me with nothing but the sound of the wind to interrupt the moment. When you get above the snow line it is so quiet at times that you realize your ears are straining to pick up some kind of sound, anything to break the silence, and even if you do hear something the air is thin and you could be hearing something half a mile away but it sounds like it is right next to you. It is one of my favorite places in the world to be.

I have seen the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.

I have sat on a plateau in the middle of the desert talking to coyotes under a sky so full of stars it boggles the mind with the Milky Way slicing across the sky from horizon to horizon and it was so dark that the stars were not just white lights, you could see blue, green and red as well in the densest clusters.

I have seen the Northern lights from the deck of a ship in the Bering sea and witnessed glaciers calving enormous slabs of ancient ice into the ocean.

I have spent time in the swamplands of the south and I have seen the jungles of central and south America and jumped into a cenote in Mexico.

I have seen the ranges of the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades, and part of the Andes.

I have been to New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Denver, Detroit, and many other major cities here in America as well as more small towns across this country than I could ever hope to count.

And then there are all of the people that I met along the way, all of the different cultures I experienced, and all of the things I learned in those travels.

People always ask "How did you afford to do all of that traveling?"

First one must realize that this was a very, very different world back then, it was much safer and far less restrictive than it is now. Hitchhiking was a very common form of travel back then and I did my fair share of it but I also hopped trains to get where I was going, and I, of course, put in a lot of windshield time as well as eating up the road on a motorcycle.

As for money, I worked. It was very easy back then to put in a week or two of work through a day labor office and put together enough money to move on to the next destination and do the same thing when you get there.

Some people may call it being a drifter but that suggests that I had no direction in my life, no purpose, but that could not be further from the truth because I most certainly had a purpose behind my travels.

This is a big beautiful world and I wanted to see as much of it as I could before I died. I was not rich by any stretch of the imagination so it didn't take much brainstorming to figure out that the only way I could ever do it was the way I did it.

I got lucky one night at a bar and met a crew doing oil exploration and hired on with them. We never spent more than a couple of weeks in one place and we went all over the country so I was able to mark a huge chunk of states off of my "to see list". Getting paid to do what I was doing anyway, you can't beat that with a stick.

Basically, I made a decision. I was not going to be that old man sitting on the porch lamenting all of the things I wished I had done in my life. I was going to be the old man on the porch telling my grandchildren about all of the adventures I had, all of the places I had seen, all of the people I had met.

As romantic as it sounds though it was a hard life and unfortunately other people got caught up in it sometimes and got hurt by my actions. Nothing comes free in this life, you have to pay the price for everything in one way or another.

My point is that I make a choice to either let the depression control me or I can stop, look back over my life and think about all of the things I have done instead of focusing on whatever I can never do again.

I have crammed at least five lifetimes into my fifty-five years of stomping around on this rock and have seen things and done things that most people can only hope they get to see or do.

I may never get to stand on top of a mountain again but at least I did get to do it. I may never get to wander out deep into the desert again and sing with the coyotes but at least I did get to do it. Many, many people never get to do things like that at all in their lives and I was fortunate enough or determined enough to make it happen for myself, and no matter what happens no one can ever take those memories away from me.

I just have to make the right choice of what path I want to go down and I have another memory that helps me do that and has helped me do that long before I ever became disabled.

I was mountain biking on a trail through the Black Hills in South Dakota and I mean I was out there. Probably at least a two-hour ride to the closest road and I stopped where the trail went under a railroad trestle for a rest and a snack when I noticed it.

Across the concrete platform that the trestle end rested on in big red letters was a message I have never forgotten. There was no other graffiti anywhere except this one sentence and remember, I was halfway to the middle of nowhere. It simply said;

"Happiness is always an option, you just have to chose it."

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