"But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."
Chris became surprisingly introspective. “I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”
That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild.
He returned to silence. Whether he was thinking or fuming or both, I couldn’t tell. Though he did arrive at an answer. I felt like some great mystic was about to reveal the Meaning of Life.
"Get enough sleep."
He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying more. This is what he’d learned. I accepted it as truth.
"What I miss most," he eventually continued, "is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness." He said he’d watched for years as a shelf mushroom grew on the trunk of a Douglas fir in his camp. I’d noticed the mushroom when I visited—it was enormous—and he asked me with evident concern if anyone had knocked it down. I assured him it was still there. In the height of summer, he said, he’d sometimes sneak down to the lake at night. "I’d stretch out in the water, float on my back, and look at the stars."