While trolling the interwebs for some outdoorsy hiking news (and becoming utterly disheartened by the ridiculous level of sunken discourse of those “town-hall meeting” protests), I remembered what I was able to do this weekend – I hiked a beautiful trail to the peak of Mount Islip, sat in the sun for a half an hour by myself, and read David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water, a transcript of a brief Commencement speech the author gave to Kenyon College in 2005, in convenient travel-sized book form.

I hadn’t been able to hit the trails for a few weeks and – as usual when that happens – I was starting to get tense and defensive, restless and at the same time overwhelmed by options. Getting onto the trail clears my mind and puts me in perspective – it’s really hard to worry about picking up everything you need from Trader Joe’s when you’re staring at mountains forged over millions of years of earthquakes and tectonic shift. For me, this book was that same sort of wake-up-call that comes from watching a hawk circle above a canyon, unaware of your presence – “Truth is about life before death.”

There are a lot of reasons for hiking and getting outdoors, but if re-centering yourself from the trials and tribulations of your sprawling urban existence is one of them, you owe it to yourself to read this. If you don’t want the book (or are cheap or would rather read it at work), you can also find the text online … until copyright lawyers force them down.

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