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The Necessary

Crater Lake view with evergreen trees and sandy colored cliffs

It happens on every trip. There’s always one item I forget to pack. I rummage through my utility bag, cursing. “Ugh…I can’t find my sunglasses anywhere. I think I forgot to bring em,” I tell her.

“Just use your hat,” she says.

I’m too busy panicking to listen. The whole excursion to Crater Lake will now be a failure. I fret. “Should’ve rechecked my list…I need a better system in place…I really wish you’d reminded me about them.”

She gives me an irritated glance. “Right, this is becoming my problem now?”

View of Crater Lake with island in the middle and blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds

We park at the lookout and exit the car. “Wow! Just wow…have you ever seen such intense blue,” she exclaims.

I shade my watering eyes from the glare. “Too much,” I mumble, “how can anyone enjoy anything under these conditions?”

She sighs. “Maybe I should get a new pair at the convenience store? Think I saw some cheap ones by the register,” I say.

“Wouldn’t that be a waste? You already have so many pairs at home.”

“And what good are they doing me now?” I ask.

She rolls her eyes.

“I’ll be in the car,” I tell her, stomping off in frustration. She follows me and we admire the scene from the protection of the vehicle’s tinted windows. 

A shiny expensive auto parks next to us. A high-heeled visitor steps out accompanied by a photographer. They scurry to the fence and begin a photoshoot. “Now take five of me this way,” the subject commands the camera person. “Now to the left…no…more left…more…no, you need to be on that side, so you can get my thigh at the right angle. Take one more…and again…”

“How many of these do you need?” the exasperated photographer asks.

“As many until I get the perfect one,” the person posing retorts.

“Unbelievable how annoying people are!” I whisper.

“Isn’t it?” she murmurs pointedly at me, “so much to take in and they worry about unimportant things.” 

“Can we move on?” I retort.

Crater Lake snow on the mountains and evergreen trees

We walk along the rim trail. The sun glints off snow, blinding me. I squint, unhappy. “The hat does not have the same effect,” I complain, “…I really need my sunglasses.”

She scoffs. “I’m sure they’d be nice to have, but you don’t need them.” I scowl. How does she know what I need?

We slither towards the shadow of colossal conifers. In between their emerald branches the deep azure lake peeks through. An undoubtedly gorgeous scene, but I can’t focus on such brilliant beauty because I’m fixated on how my lack of sunglasses is ruining my experience. I inhale slowly. “Stop obsessing,” I tell myself, “you’re throwing away this moment…be present…be aware of that blue…appreciate the world around you.” It’s no good. I can’t. Instead, I brood on other things I’ve forgotten to pack during past trips: sunscreen, flip flops, gloves, pajamas…all of which seemed hugely necessary at the time I was missing them.

A bit of blue Crater Lake seen next to closeup of evergreen branch

Though I’d like not to be, I’m defined by my belongings as much as anything else. They affect how I live and think; they influence my emotions. Like many who’ve progressed from scrabbling for food, water, and shelter into a life of higher privilege, I’ve come to view various luxuries as indispensable. The question is: can I go backwards? Can I give up my desire for a new portable media player, the upgraded hair brush, the daily coffee…the disposable sunglasses? Can I learn to live with less comfort and less convenience? Is accepting the limits of our natural world a regression?

There’s no avoiding consumption. I inhabit a body which requires nourishment on multiple levels from the physical to the aesthetic. And as a part of the ecosystem, I have to take in order to survive. The problem is I have an unhealthy and complicated relationship with that which sustains me. I seesaw between the quixotic dream of living as a hermit revulsed by possessions to getting seduced by marketing into bacchanalian product bingeing. My need of stuff is entangled with my warped ideas of success, security, and self-esteem. Novelty, gratification, expediency have become my necessities. 

A view of Crater Lake with island in middle of water seen from the back of wicker wood rattan rocking chairs

But, I can change these harmful connections to what I eat, what I wear, what I purchase, what entertains, what sparks joy. I can exercise restraint. I can choose to feed the ecology from which I extract. I can practice generosity to extricate myself out of the ‘never enough’ philosophy. I can cherish what I own, appreciating the life-force of each item, honoring the different ways these objects care for me. 

Perhaps I need to be better organized, develop greater packing skills. However, as I blink and sniffle and squint my way through our Crater Lake hike until the sun mellows into an evening of soft color, I’m also nurturing gratitude for what I have and what I’ve lost. 


TRAVEL NOTE: 

The forests at Crater Lake National Park are some of the few remaining old-growth woodlands still surviving. Their diverse composition creates a variety of wildlife habitats which circularly promote the continuation of these essential trees. Protecting such essential ecosystems requires practicing smaller footprints and voting for policy changes. 


What luxuries do we practice at the expense of other lives and limited natural resources? I’d love to know your thoughts about this in the comments below.

98 replies »

  1. Yes, avoid overconsumption but if it’s a necessity to you, don’t go without, because you will always regret it. Before I travel, I check my checklist 3 times in the lead up. LOL

  2. Sorry that forgetting your sunglasses didn’t let you enjoy such a wonderful setting at its fullest. No matter how good my packing lists are, I usually leave home without something. I need a better memory, not a better list. 😁

    • 😆 Ahahaha! Yes, that seems to be the real problem with me too. I just need to accept that my memory is failing and roll with the losses. Thanks for stopping by to share your experience.

  3. Amusing and annoying when one forgets to pack something. In Sedona, AZ I picked up several pairs of reading glasses which I keep all over the house and vehicles and which are never there when I want/need them. I suggest you keep your items listed in a word document to print out and check off for future trips. Too much trouble? Then simply write your packed items on a piece of paper and keep it somewhere you will remember: refrigerator, taped inside a cabinet or the best one: inside the suitcase itself. Be well and safe travels.

  4. A few years ago, my husband and I travelled overseas, arriving in a country well ahead of our luggage, and it was something I was fretting about. We met a young man who arrived a few weeks before us, and his luggage was delayed too. However, he had a different approach. “It taught me how little I need to live,” he said.

    Your post reminded me of that fellow, and it’s a philosophy I try to adopt, but don’t always succeed. Your post is an eloquent prodding, and I’m glad to have read it. Thanks for sharing your beautiful writing with us.

    • Thank you for such a lovely compliment. I’m always inspired by the ways in which readers open their minds to change that reconnects them to the world while remaining supportive of one another’s struggles.

  5. Haha, correct! There is always ONE thing, that one thing that is nowhere to be found in the pack. Maybe can pack both umbrella and sunglass together, umbrella is such a useful tool. Can shield the eyes, the rain, the heat, the snow. Lol. I can feel your pain shielding from that glaring sun. I have learn to adapt and not sweat about it though. After all, not much can be done if am out in remote area, it is what it is.

    When I traveled to Jordan once, I have only my camera, basic toiletries, current clothes on me and a jacket for 3 days in Jordan biosphere reserve because my backpack decided to stay at departure city. Wasn’t cranky, and happy to make do of the moment the best I can for 3 days. 🙂

    Beautiful photos and so glad for you that you can still travel at the many national parks there. 🙂

    • Thank you. You really are right about learning to adapt. Something travel has always forced me to do. So happy to hear that in your case, the missing or lost things didn’t affect your enjoyment of the places.

  6. Well, I just had a great experience this weekend about forgetting something, too!

    I guess it involves a lot of telling, and it was about forgetting my wallet at a market, on Friday, it’s the damn  mask, You cannot see what you are doing.
    I recovered the wallet, next day, but due to a strange twist of fate, they call a person asking for me, this person was mad with me for a silly thing, and had not returned my calls over a year, the market called me and returned my wallet, but did not told me how they got my number.
    I met my son for coffee at a café on Sunday, and told him about the incident, of course being my son, he start to lecture me about being more careful, then we switch conversation, and we start talking about other stuff, somehow I remembered this person, and how I did not heard from her now in about a year, and told my son:

    “So silly to hold a grudge about such a trifle!”

    My son said: “Well, she may reconsider, and call you back.”
    I said: “Fat chance! It’s a year now, obviously our friendship it’s over.”

    My son replied: “Hey, you both guys are alive, and you know the saying, about the game it’s not to be over until the fat lady sings!”

    He just said those words, and my phone rings, and yes you guessed it was that person!!

    At the market they did not tell me how they got my number, but this person asked them why they were calling her, about me, and they told her: “We have been calling every number on the wallet, and after a dozen calls, you are the only person who answered.”

    She started talking to me like if she had spoken to me yesterday, and not a year ago, she talked endlessly, we will meet for lunch on Sunday.

    By the way, I do not like to wear sunglasses, but my optometrist insists I need to wear them daily.😎

  7. Sorry I’m late BT,

    I can relate to forgetting to pack something. 😦 I don’t wear sunglasses, so wouldn’t miss them , but I can understand how it’d affect your enjoyment if you can’t see properly.

    Ultimately, your final line says to me … you’ve made peace with it.

    🙂
    eden

  8. I agree with you on over consumption etc, but sunglasses absolutely essential for me too! Couldn’t cope without them

    • Needs are different for everyone, so I appreciate your understanding. The line between thinking something is necessary and wanting it to be gets so blurred for me…I have to be mindful of that. Thanks for stopping by to read and share your thoughts.

  9. When things don’t go as planned, I always tell myself that it’s not the end of the world. I do feel frustrated when that happens, but a more important question is: do I want to set the mood of the day based on this? Usually the answer is no, hence the letting go and accepting the situation. I’m sorry for this hiccup on your trip to Crater Lake, but you took beautiful photos of it nevertheless.

    • Thank you, it’s a comfort to know others have gone through similar situations. Much as I’d like to be unaffected by mishaps, I still feel their impact even when in the grand scheme of things they are unimportant. But, hopefully I’m learning to let them affect me less as I grow in experience.

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