May 21, 2020

Thursdays with Woli | The Wanderer

Chris Streveler (left) and Drew Wolitarsky (right) climbing a mountain by Streveler's home in Arizona.

Bob Crosby is singing ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ as the cloudless blue sky hovers like an ocean, the car growing dusty and hot as the star of our horizon heats the lizards and snakes that crawl from their little holes for homes.

The wanderer feels at home in this desert fever; the quiet that the heat makes on the desolate towns with buildings boarded up and wood rotting around Brahmin skulls cracked by age and bipolar days of sun and nights of ice.

Bob Crosby again, “something’s gotta give…” and the engine light of the car comes on, a wheezing sound coming from under the hood.

The wanderer pulls off the road and finds the nearest mechanic. He thinks, the greatest thing of having nowhere to be is that you are already here.

And by luck, a good friend is just beyond, exploring the dusty valleys between high victory and lowest loneliness.

Time is strange with wanderers, who are gone for so long but never seem to have missed a step when they reconnect. The stories flow easily, the small details of the grandest memories seem to stand out like the red rock mountains from the flatland. The vastness of memory is its own desert, and we wander in the wolf-cry nights trying to understand it all, to come to terms with the pains and expectations. We wander, alright.

Drew Wolitarsky (left) and Chris Streveler (right). Photo: David Lipnowski

“It’s good to see you!”

“It’s good to be here.”

The living quarters of a wanderer are simple: forks and knives but never a holder for utensils. And bowls and plates but no mugs. So we drink tea from bowls with honey, double-bagged, black, leaning back in lawn chairs on the patio listening to the absence of sound.

I play guitar and the sun drops behind the South Mountain, and we are aware that our sunset comes earlier on this side of the ridge. So we watch the night encroach from the East, the blue growing black the further back we look.

“You know it’s always sunset or sunrise.”

“So how do you see the world? As sunrise or sunset?”

I play two chords, some bright E chord or A, I only listen and hear what is good and I speak what’s on my mind, what thoughts breed and need to come out. I’m afraid of what comes next. I’m afraid I’ll never be the same. I’m afraid for the people and our connection. I’m happy we are here. I’m proud of who we are, of what we’ve done, of what we’ll do.

A misconception of the wanderer: we like to be alone.

Drew Wolitarsky (left) and Chris Streveler (right) with the Grey Cup during Grey Cup week in November 2019.

The time of joy is always short and we have come to live with it, enjoy the notes from the guitar while they still linger, as the string calms and the music fades and recedes to the bareness of the soil.

Sometimes it’s good to breathe for the sake of feeling life, not just expecting it.

“Let’s climb a mountain.”

Four lolipops. A PayDay candy bar. Some waters. We begin our trek.

The trail is jagged and uneven, we keep our eyes to the ground doing what is necessary to traverse the path. We come through points of shade and sun wrapping around the mountain, taking little looks back as the land unfolds below us, cities spring up from the crust like coral reefs in the red sanded sea and there are hundreds of ranges of rock much like these, all out in the desert heat.

Sweating, legs ablaze, we push up the last incline and we find ourselves standing at the peak, laughing, drinking the good drink of life.

A butterfly lands on a rock in front of me, and I hear a woman say, “I’ve seen where I’m going after this and it’s a beautiful place.” And I feel my own transformation beginning, feel the pressure in my back where the wings are pushing to break free.

Chris Streveler (left) and Drew Wolitarsky (right) climbing a mountain by Streveler’s home in Arizona.

The wanderer is attracted to the desert because it represents him. Long days of travel, of fighting the elements, of an almost stupid trust that they will get where they are required.

And the mountains that obstruct their path: defining moments for the wanderers, the ones that will drastically change their course. For at the peak of the rock, all the land becomes visible, the sound leaves and the entirety of the wasteland is clear.

The wanderer spends most of his life climbing or descending, but his thoughts dwell with the peaks, the momentary stillness of victory that act as defining moments on a long, blurred timeline of life.

They stay there, watching the birds nosedive, the butterflies exploring their wings, and look out to where the other ranges rise from the flat desert like the rigid spines of dragons.

And all they can think of is the next climb, the next peak, and now you can understand the mind of the wanderer. He is never where he is finished, but always where he is with the desire to feel alive.

As we descend, we see the paths unfolding before us, going in different directions. We may never share the same victory we once had, but we will remember the peak from which we shared our greatest vision, our hardship, our wandering.