A couple of mornings ago (my “evening” thanks to being a MidRat), I got the opportunity to head out on a recreation tour to visit the Pegasus Wreck Site. I’ve been out there on the ice shelf before, during my first season, but this was the first time that I have gotten to drive a skidoo (aka: snowmobile) in Antarctica. Or ever.
As we were heading out over the ice road that leads to Phoenix Airfield, then past it out to the remains of the aircraft, I quickly realized that I did not want to get drawn into the previous path of another snowmobile or other vehicle.
There were ruts all over the place. Some made by other recreation parties that have headed out towards Pegasus or Room With a View (which I have not gotten out to yet in the three seasons on ice). Others were made by the graders who maintain the ice surface of the roadway. Others were created by various vans, trucks, shuttles, deltas, and other vehicles that displaced the soft ice and snow to form small canyons and ridges across the surface.
Some ruts are harmless. Others will catch the skis of your skidoo and pull you wherever they wander. Some will jerk your skidoo violently to the side and if you aren’t careful, you can easily loose control.
This made me think of how easy it is to be drawn into the ruts of others and how quickly your path can be diverted because of someone else’s desires, experiences, and/or events of the world that are out of your control.
How many of us were jarred and thrown after COVID-19 ruined our spring plans for 2020? And then continued to force its way into our lives throughout the rest of the year because of the actions (or lack of actions) of others. How many plans were canceled? How many of our daily habits were changed?
But it can be much smaller than world changing events. Take for instance the reputation of a group of individuals you work with and how that reputation can be a rut that can trap you in expectations.
Years ago, I got pulled into the ruts of AmeriCorps St Louis ERT and the reputation it had of excessive parties and drinking, but also the elitist mentality that existed within the program. That reputation still pulls at my path when people hear that I was one of its members.
Or here on the ice with the Fire Department. Over the past couple seasons, the entire department has had to fight to repair the reputation damaged by a few individuals in the past.
But if you look even closer, you can see that it is as simple as personal relationships. A friend makes a decision and, even if you disagree, you are affected by it because of your relationship with them. A family member makes a comment and because you are related, you must deal with the fallout when your friends see what they have done.
I am a member of the Fell Company, a collection of artists and friends that make up a small part of Fell and Fair. People know that I am part of this. So when the decision was recently made to host events in the middle of a pandemic, other people look to me for answers. Friends from other LARP groups that I am part of me think I agree and support that decision even when I don’t.
Their decision is like a rut that tries to guide me somewhere I am not going. If I am not paying attention, it has the capability throw me violently into conflict with others.
Or think even smaller and take a look at all the things you were taught to believe. You can see the ruts of racism, social justice, and societies expectations as clear as day, but what about your beliefs and faith? What about your feeling on history and current events? What about your opinions on other cultures and opinions that differ than your own? Can you see those ruts?
Think of how often ruts occur in our lives. But also, think about what ruts you leave behind you.
Not all ruts are hazardous. Some lead straight as an arrow, like parents teaching their children to love unconditionally. Some are gentle reminders of challenges ahead. Others are not dangerous when they diverge from the path you are on, but they are not going in the same direction.
At one point on the trip back from Pegasus, one of the skidoos in front of me veered suddenly as it hit a bump and almost went sideways. Sweets managed to keep control of the vehicle, but it could have easily rolled and flipped if she hadn’t have been paying attention.
Our journey through life is filled with dangers. But it is also accompanied by good people, great friendships, and families bound by the love we share with each other. So, yes, be aware of the ruts along your path, but do not be distracted from the beauty that surrounds you.
And remember to wear your thermals when riding out onto the ice shelf on a skidoo…