My friends wife, a few years ago, nicknamed me Jungle Man and was honestly surprised when she bumped into me at the supermarket because she expected that I hunted for all my food and hence needed no such access to such modern amenities. I laughed back then, but secretly she knew the hidden truth the entire time. I was truly just in denial of my inner caveman.
In last year’s New Mexican summer, I took up the irresistible opportunity to be a model for a (mostly) naked photoshoot. Way out in the middle of nowhere, past the decade-long tire-fire through the caves, up into the cliffs shrouded by skank mud, I became…. Jungle Man. (Fear not, there are no excessively revealing photos in this batch… although there definitely are some in the secret stronghold of the Jungle Man Archives)
(With added circles for added pleasure.)
Beyond the petrifying snake guardian,
Down the trail from the Black Lodge,
There were insects too weird to be memorable.
After years of wandering through narrow tubes, rebounding off rounded smoky glass walls and occasionally deviating through sneaky glitches on parole to let out the most minimum amount of steam, the fitzbrain struggled to emerge from it’s PhD prison. The result of a hellish restriction of the psyche over an excessive period of time. And once finished and submitted? Collapse. Sleeping in. 700 naps a day. Standing naps, sitting naps, traditional horizontal naps, socially awkward mid-conversation naps and an all-time favourite, driving naps. And once the naps cease? … an apparent subtle but beautiful change slowly starts to occur, first as a ripple in a pond, then a tidal wave of rocketing synapses that sprout miraculously through the forest-floor.
Was it really a prison? Sorta. A personally selected prison .. a positive analogy would be that of a monk going into the mountain thereby becoming ascetic by choice. While technically still existing in the everyday world, large sections of consciousness need to be temporarily shutdown and/or unpreventably polluted over time just so the PhD can be gestated and birthed. Towards the end, unperceived, the struggle turns into a zombie-like groundhog day of shuffling numbers, words and graphs around into a meaningful, important but empty collage. Every struggling ounce of creative energy produced by the body exhaustively stripmined and harvested for the PhD results in the outflow of all manner of toxic smog into the surrounding mental environment.. All hail PhD.
The few days following the submission of the PhD were a blur, sometimes negative, sometimes neutral, but always exhausted until the spontaneous, but necessary, moment of change with a surprise flight to Tasmania. The initial intention was to stand somewhere along the windy coast in such a manner that one ear was facing West into the wind, and the other East into the void, such that the suffocating gas could be forced thusly from the brain to an irretrievable exhaust outwards from the opposing ear into the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, this encountered minimal success. More success was seen retracing footsteps of old, and finding new places to tread, through the soft wet lush undergrowth of fern-infested temperate rainforests.
It is easy to forget how generative and positive being in the rainforest can be. Whilst I read that to myself most mornings, it is still really only a theory or memory until the jolt of direct experience… then still too quickly forgotten and lost to the abstract. Parts of my mind that had been converted, for a time, into something resembling 1980s corporate guy have all too quickly returned to the natural horde order of Lebowskis and Nietzsches. All of the flower heads, flagging neglected and parched in various dilapidated fields, that had semi-permanently closed up due to the artificial eternal night, have slowly started to turn and open expectantly towards the impending future sunrise. Driving motivations that, in previous years, used to exist daily, which had recently only been paid a eulogy-like lip service in respectful memoriam, have begun to erupt again from the fissures left bare. All of this experienced through the stench of a million moist forest smells, impossible to disentangle from each other, bringing back distant memories of frequent joyful dancing and deep communicating.
Continually driving to and fro from the forest day after day has become implausible yet irrevocably fruitful. A trip that would take 30 minutes inevitably stretches into hours as it is necessary to pull over every second minute to write notes of new ideas or take photos that describe thoughts impervious to words. If I had a guitar with me I would be doomed to never return home. Skyrockets and firecrackers explode as the mind celebrates it’s liberation while simultaneously observing the slow retreat of crisis mode beyond the distant mountains drifting away into the past. Free, it returns to it’s forgotten gnarly chaotic overgrown paths of old, also having been empowered by the PhD as originally intended …just forgotten…, to stride towards both past and future goals.
My consciousness seems to be re-emerging with the forest; the rodeo handlers at the edge of my subconscious have flung open the gates exposing a tyrannical bull, an imperviously cunning clown and a lot of screaming rural types scoffing corndogs. Various loose threads of my mind have been permanently attached to the rear-end of a stallion nicknamed “Tornado”; so called as his real name is unpronounceable by humankind. I wonder what is going to happen? Maybe I’ll ask that girl over there on the starter’s podium in the rocking chair whittling the shotgun.
My name is Fitz and I’m a recovering PhD student.
(All photos in this post generated from these walks)
A new random project to do on the cheap with my camera.
I will get to the PhD stuff eventually, but now its time for a little arty fun!
Well I’ll be damned!
Not entirely complete persay, but submitted and I return back to the future
Relevant, not so much to me (although I did drink a statistically significant amount more beer in the final writing stages than usual…. although it was Australian summer!) as I seem to have come through it relatively unscathed albeit with the not unexpected constant high stress levels and typical existential semi-crises surrounding a sudden life change. But for other students I know and have talked confidentially to, these issues are rife. (I also think it applies to actual lecturers and academics as well… not that any of them will admit it!). The article was interestingly timed, and I completely agree that mental health is an invisible elephant in the room.