Christmas came a little late today, in the form of over a hundred highly secret, much- anticipated photos from First Descents in Jackson, Wyoming. Dear Hollywood, out there on the Left Coast, tormented us all last fall, refusing to share his photos as the rest of us did in a flurry of activity in the days and weeks immediately following camp. Selfish bastard, I thought: why won’t he just share his fucking pictures like a NORMAL FD’er?
Then today, totally without warning, an avalanche of memories was unleashed when Hollywood finally – FINALLY, six months later – posted his photos for all the world to see. And so now, as I sit with my evening cup of tea, I am filled with this incredibly warm feeling of love and comfort as I remember the magic that unfolded in Jackson.
Scarcely a day goes by when I don’t give thanks for First Descents, and the miraculous way in which it jump-started my life as a survivor. The experience I had has become such an essential, defining part of me, it’s as familiar as breathing. But today, in addition to pouring through these amazing photographs, I also decided – in uncharacteristically spontaneous fashion – to head to Washington, DC on Thursday evening for an FD event. How can I not? Who cares if I have to dash to a train when I get out of court, and if I return to work on Friday mid-day horribly hungover? I simply cannot resist the pull of this organization, what it means to me, the way it has touched the lives of so many young adults with cancer.
The frustration I have at this moment, then, is that I once again am I left stumbling for the right words, the perfect tone, as I try and convey the mystery of what we all shared during that week in the mountains. As I looked through the photos this evening, the memories were so fresh, I felt as though I could have climbed right into any one of those moments. Over and over, images of us all embracing, smiling, connecting. It’s palpable to me, but it’s something unseen, elusive. Do I see it in our faces, in our body language, simply because I was there, because I lived it? Or is it something that can be shared and felt by others? I suspect we all probably struggle with these questions as we attempt to share what First Descents means to us.
The pictures, I think, tell the story so much better than any words I could ever find. For that reason, I am so thankful tonight for Hollywood, and the special gift which he has shared with us all. I believe that all of us from Jackson, wherever we are tonight – around the country, and around the world – are feeling this indescribable connection renewed and re-invigorated. I certainly feel re-born.
But words are my tools, the best ones I have, so I will keep trying, as well as I can, to keep the memories fresh and alive. Painting with words, trying to fill in the spaces between those precious captured moments, to add just a bit more color and shading to those priceless images.