Open Water Trips

Adventures in Open Water in Small Boats

Off Topic: Last Breath by Peter Stark

Good morning

I just finished reading a book titled “Last Breath” by Peter Stark. It is about what participating in extreme sports can do to the human body and why we do it. I found the following quote very significant and thought I would share it with you all. It comes from the last two paragraphs from the last chapter. It is about how a man survives nearly dying in the Sahara desert after he gets what he has unwittingly asked for, yet what he has been searching for all along. I wonder how many of us seek the same thing. The book is also a great teacher, if you pay attention to its details on human physiology and psychology, on surviving bad situations. Reading this book just might be as valuable as reading “Deep Trouble” in a survival situation, although not necessarily sea kayaking. Consider this a Christmas gift to those who tempt the fates to get away from it all. I figure it just may do me some good as I paddle my way across Canada’s northern wilds. It can never hurt to learn a few apparently irrelevant tidbits, that is, until you really need to know them.

“You will slowly come to understand other things, too, from your experience with the desert. The desert is indeed a place of nakedness that strips away the superfluous layers of the self as it peels away the fertile green layer of life that covers so much of this planet. Like the oxygenless summit of a Himalayan peak or the silent, motionless cold of a 40-below Arctic night, the desert teaches you just how thin the layer of life is, and how fragile your own hold on it. Stepping beyond that fragile layer is no more difficult than shedding your clothes on a winter night or walking for a few hours without water in a hot sun. And when you finally do step beyond it, the ego, the vanity, the insignificance, and-often-the pettiness of so much of what passes for human endeavor and striving becomes abundantly clear. This is what the great religions and the shamans and the Sufi all are trying to tell you-to step beyond the self that blinds you, as the Sufi knows, having stripped away material wealth and worldly ambitions in his pursuit of union, spinning with ecstasy under the stars in the naked desert night.
This is why you climb mountains, and paddle whitewater rivers, and trek into the desert, and seek out remote places; to strip away the superfluous, to remove the protective boundaries between that thing you call a self and something larger. Your body still lies weakened and half shriveled, slowly taking on water to restore itself fully to life, but already as you lie in the sand with the flames of the fire jumping into the night, the desert tempts you back to it. The mountains tempt you to climb them. The rivers tempt you to run them. The remote places beckon.

It is not a question of whether you will go again.

The question for you is: where next?

And the other question is: how far?”

Robert N Pruden