Sept. 11, 2011

It will be a Sunday morning. I will get up early. In shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops I’ll step out to the front yard, retrieve the two newspapers, local and The New York Times. I probably will stand right there on the sidewalk and with shaking hands peel the wrappers off. I'll read the headlines. Then I'll turn around and go back inside.

Soon my son and wife will awaken and find Van Winkle (i.e., me) up and about. It will be time for them to swing into action. They'll invite me into the garage and lead me to the west wall where they have been neatly stacking all the newspapers and magazines they’ve saved over the past year.

They will also have kept a 365-day log of newsworthy happenings. Using that they will sit me down and de-brief me on the highlights of what has come to pass.

Why Begin (and End) on Sept. 11

I once read about some men who lived through Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, and several days beyond, without any knowledge that terrorists had attacked America.

These unintentional, inadvertent naives did not know that the Twin Towers had fallen, that a side had been blasted out of the Pentagon, that there was now a smoking crater in a farmer's field in Pennsylvania.

The men were climbing in the Cascade Mountains. They were what we call today “off the grid.” Cell phones wouldn’t work in the place where they sought to kiss the sky. They might as well have been asleep to the experiences and emotions of the rest of us as they melted snow for water, drove axes into the ice, tugged on ropes, and grinned with satisfaction behind their sunglasses, settled into a tent each night.

They descended later that week as still pristine beings. To a world that was different than the one they left behind.

Those climbers are my inspiration.

Figuratively speaking the Van Winkle Project allows me hike into a personal version of the Cascades. I am not completely off the grid because I still have a car, electricity, and infrastructure, but I am trying to live without any plugging into the part of the great societal and cultural machine that chatters information of events unfolding in our world.

As I Van Winkle myself through the next 12 months, I am living a life that is ignorant and therefore slightly innocent. But I hope, really hope, the news when I awaken on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 is not so bad. And that it was worth coming down from that mountain.