When I’m moving through mountains on foot, I sometimes imagine that I’m knocking with my feet on the soil below, knock-knock-knocking with every foot strike like knuckles rapping on a padlocked portal made of earth and rock and gravity. With every knock, I imagine asking the dirt underfoot, “Am I worthy of returning yet?” Now I’m not wishing to die; it’s more that I wish fiercely to live.
Perhaps it’s because, with a regular practice of trail running, our soft animal bodies swing life and limb so intimately close to earth’s cadence. Perhaps it’s written calligraphically into respiration and lactic acid rise paired with a planet that roars past us and right through us, stinging our retinas as we dash along singletracks of the unasphalted, the unmodified, the untamed.
So I ask, as deep ecologist and poet Gary Snyder once did: How edible am I?
Am I giving back to the planet a body that’s been unused, atrophied from couches and cages, repressed with anger and narcissism and conformity? No, I wish that feast upon nobody. Instead, I aim to be as edible as possible, to be worthy of that inevitable return to earth. After all, gravity always wins.
With every wilderness outing, I attempt to discover more humility, more insight into the ways this planet revolves and evolves, churns and composts itself anew. I try and honor those who lived here before me, and to fight for protecting the last honest places for posterity. Because when it finally comes time for that stuff beneath the mountains to let me back in again, I aspire to return to the soil at least, mildly, palatable.
So I keep running. I keep knocking. I keep living.
Nick Triolo is a writer, filmmaker, activist, and sponsored ultrarunner living in Missoula, Montana. He’s run across the Baja peninsula in a day, finished sub-19 hours at Western States 100, and has won the Oregon Trail Series. Learn more about Nick’s projects at the Jasmine Dialogues Blog.