On this week, Zilikoo community would like to share Mountains & Myth photography project by John Anderson and also John shared his personal experience on this project exclusively to Zilikoo.
“Landscape and Fear”, for most of my life, I was at home in the wilderness. I was well aware of the dangers: bears, unstable terrain, avalanches, huge cliffs, and bad weather but I didn’t care. Or rather, I was confident and relaxed in my abilities and so was not afraid. All this began to change at the age of 42 when I came down with early onset of Parkinson’s disease. Even before being diagnosed, I had already lost the ability to walk any distance. Even to reach the far edge of a large hotel lobby became a challenge. Bone crushing cramps in my feet would force me to the ground. Eventually on a hunch, I was given the drug L-dopa (dopamine) by my physician.
Suddenly, it was like PopEye and I had a new life. With L-dopa I could hike again, I could photograph again! I was still in pretty good shape from when I was in really good shape. I decided I would carry 4×5 cameras and an overnight gear and go into the wilderness alone. I was abusing the drug, taking way too much in order to do this and I had a host of hallucinatory sensations to deal with. Adding to this, after about five miles or so my foot would once again cramp causing unbearable pain.
Then one day I was coming down a relatively easy descent in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. It was a broad trail, in warm sunshine when I just sort of blacked out. I discovered that I was desperately trying to avoid falling down. My trekking pole suddenly snapped and I hit the rocky trail hard. Trauma – I felt it in my left ankle immediately. I was hiking with a friend, but he was far ahead of me. And this happened when I had been leisurely photographing on the way down. I quickly pulled my boot off and saw that my ankle was swelling rapidly. Grimacing through the pain, I put my boot back on and made a splint with part of the broken trekking pole that I’m sure had only psychological value. 3.5 miles – that’s how far I had to walk out on an ankle that was broken in three places.
At first the pain was impossible. Slowly I began to set small goals – reach a certain tree in 10 minutes or reach a certain distance without resting. I even began to assign a number to the different kinds of pain depending on their severity. Taking a full step- 7, stretching to reach a foothold – 6, stubbing my toe-9-9-9! Ouch. Eventually I made it to the car, but not without a chill running down my spine knowing that it could have been worse.
It became a lot worse, after a couple more close calls, including an encounter with a bear, three broken ribs (not from the bear) and a scary night time ascent, my carefree relationship with the mountains was gone forever. It has been replaced by a brooding yet still shining immensity. My love has been tempered by a dark awareness of my own mortality. My joy has been complicated with fear as the ravages of Parkinson’s disease take from me everything, including the last vestiges of my dignity. My only hope is that something of this inner drama comes across in the photographs.
Disclaimer: All trademarks and trade names used in this articles are the property of respective owners. Images used in this article by permission from John Anderson.