Opulence to Austerity, or, A Tumble Down Maslow’s Hierarchy

June 4, 2018

There is no denying, the last two weeks of May saw us living in the lap of luxury. Double bed, hot running water, unlimited food within arm’s reach, dry shelter in the rain – all the trappings of civilization, which so many people take for granted. Our basic needs were being met with abundance!

On our last day in Eugene, we attended church with Jay’s parents. A massive pipe organ sent shock waves through my system, delighting me as the organist skillfully wove melodies and counter melodies. A visiting young men’s choir, singing glorious acapella harmonies, lifted me with transcending joy.

The afternoon saw us at King Estate Vineyard, indulging in a cheese and fruit plate along with lovely Pinot noir wine. I think this meal went a bit beyond just meeting one’s basic needs!

After satisfying our stomachs, a fascinating tour of the vineyard gave me food for thought as I satisfied curiosity about a new subject.

Family – sharing with each other, laughing and talking and telling stories, knowing we belonged together – this was the true highlight of yesterday.

And so today, we have returned to what some would consider a stark existence – the Pacific Crest Trail. Jay’s sister and brother-in-law dropped us off at Willamette Pass. Happy hugs were exchanged, and I blithely shouldered my pack, eager for more adventure!

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Sarah and Jay at Willamette Pass

Towering hemlocks muffled our footsteps as we entered the forest. Silence reigned as sunbeams lanced through deep shade, outlining a tree trunk here, spotlighting a wildflower there. A sense of dislocation permeated my being.

“It’s as if we’ve been snatched from Tatooine (Luke Skywalker’s desert home) and plumped down on Endor (forest home of the Ewoks in Star Wars),” Jay joked.

We hiked for three miles, enjoying our new habitat. A flower known as vanilla leaf posed next to a tree trunk, while pink trillium called good morning from beside the trail.

The rhythm of hiking began to lull me with familiarity, until suddenly I topped a rise to see … WATER! Astonishment coursed through my body. Even though my brain knew that lakes dominate much of the Cascades, actually seeing rippling blue water caused a disruption in my subconscious. The desert of southern California felt very far away.

Lower Rosary Lake with the Pulpit in the background.

By evening, my left Achilles tendon ached, and my pack had mysteriously gained weight throughout the day. As we lay out our dinner, I laughed over the contrast from yesterday. Our trail food could be classified as nourishing, but never sumptuous. The forest, with its quiet beauty, was so very different from the soul-thrilling music of Sunday morning. And yet, happiness pervaded my inmost being.

“Sometimes it seems that we humans need a return to the basics in order to be healthy,” Jay mused. “My brain wasn’t designed to stay at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy all the time. Maybe that’s why it’s a pyramid. We spend most of our time at the bottom – satisfying basic needs.”

Raisins, nuts, cheese, chocolate, and sardines.

I looked at Jay and smiled. Food, shelter, beauty, and a loved one. For what more could I ask? Maybe we hadn’t tumbled too far down Maslow’s hierarchy after all.

10 thoughts on “Opulence to Austerity, or, A Tumble Down Maslow’s Hierarchy

  1. We attempted to hike the PCT at Ebbetts Pass this weekend but lost the trail in the snow fields. I bet it will be another month until the trail appears there!

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  2. How about because your basic needs are readily available at your whim (shelter, food water), you are already higher on Maslow’s pyramid? Out there, those are your only “needs”. No new car, no promotion, no trendy clothes or devices. Maybe you’ve glimpsed the roadmap to enlightenment…
    Happy journeys.
    Cpt. Ron

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