Thursday, June 6, 2013

Beyond the Y

For those of you unfamiliar with Utah, or Utah Valley, there is a big white Y painted on the mountain.
This is just something that we do here..well, in America really, where colleges and universities put whitewashed block letters on the hillside near their school to show their pride.

So in Utah Valley, near Utah Lake, below Mount Timpanogos, you can find a giant Y on the hillside that stands for BYU (Brigham Young University), the local LDS University.

On Saturday a BYU student just a couple of years younger than me went hiking up to the Y.  And beyond.  And he didn't return.  They found his body late last night.
I want to know what happened.  This is just so horrifying to me. It is always offensive when a young person's life is snatched away from them.

I don't know why, but in my mind this parallels with Sirius's death in Harry Potter and the idea that he is just behind the veil. I imagine this is how this young man's family will always feel about the Y on the hillside.

At this point I should probably acknowledge that this is not your typical "blogging material" and it is kind of a downer.  But blogs aren't all funny memes and reminiscing about last weekend's parties...they need substance, they need reflection, and I need to write it out. This is not to say there will be depressing posts in the future or overly-ridiculous ones to compensate; it is a balance.
There is a time for jokes about Charlton Heston and a time for introspection. (And it's my blog anyway!!) Savvy? I'll continue.

How can you go for a simple hike and never return?  It is like someone driving down the street for a gallon of milk and getting into a massive car crash in view of their house, that ends up taking their life.
He went out into the sunshine on a late Saturday morning wearing his Camelback.  He took a winding dirt path to the Y and probably rested against the white concrete that had been warming in the sun, and took a sip of water while looking out over the glistening green of Utah Lake.  Maybe he watched some planes take off at the local Provo airport.  Maybe he could see some guys on the quad throwing the pigskin around and planned to join them later.

And then off again, exploring, fulfilling that adventurous drive that occupies all of our hearts at one time or another, beyond our control.  Some people can stifle it and stay in their bubble, content with the mowed grass of their backyard, but Tyler Mayle was not pacified with the paved path, and so made his own.

There are many footpaths in those hills, but those hills turn into mountains, and the paths dissolve in the underbrush.
The searchers looking for him focused on an area known as Eagle Pass, where there is an old logging road.
It is steep and rocky there, dotted with caves among the pines and scrub oaks. There are rock slides. There are mountain lions and bears.

When searchers came across a bear in the area I thought "oh... that has got to be it."  I thought about how it would be to be alone and come face-to-face with a bear.  Many people don't walk away from that.
If you saw a bear in the wild you would just suddenly know this is it.  Of course you would fight and that interminable desire to live would flood your veins with hot adrenaline, but sometimes that isn't enough.

And then they found his body at the foot of a cliff and I was stumped.  I wasn't expecting that.
I was hoping that he had holed up in a cave and was dehydrated and fatigued, but had used his wits to hold on.  Now it appears he was really far off any path and tried to climb this cliff alone, without any equipment.  They aren't sure.  Perhaps he hurt himself and accidentally tumbled off.  That cliff is 65 feet tall. How awful.
If it were me (and not that we have any choice in this regard) I think I would rather be taken by the bear, because there is something about your life being extinguished by a wild thing, a living thing, on its ground, that just seems more harmonizing, blunt, and tolerable than slipping off a cliff face.
Maybe it is Legends of the Fall talking, but taking on a bear in your final act is a good death.
If such can be.  One day we will all be gone, everything that makes us us.  It cannot be stopped.  It is the way of things and something we all must reconcile, and everyone has a different time to go.  You can escape it sometimes, but for how long?  Sometimes people have just served their purpose in this life and can leave it for another.  I feel that if I had a choice between these two things, I would take the bear because it would be on my own terms, and more of a "fighting chance."
If I fell off a cliff, my last thoughts would be that it were my fault.  That I could have prevented it.  That I am an idiot and could have found something to hold onto.  Of course none of this is true and I am not in any way trying to demean Tyler's death, but when these things happen they just make you think.
Morbid thoughts, granted, but everyone grapples with the fact that one day they will stop breathing in different ways and while some think it is grotesque to dwell on this stuff, it is healthy and mandatory to contemplate in order to reconcile with this hard fact of life and the way it closes.
It also allows me a catharsis, and grieving for all that are lost...we lose too many every day, and in ways obviously worse than this (one American death is grieved more than the slaughter of one hundred foreigners, I know), but this hits close to home and I know I will never look at that Y the same way again.

Please keep his grieving family in your thoughts.The only way they can find solace is in knowing he died doing what he loved.

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