SEATTLE, Washington A question's circling like a carrion bird this month. Over coffee, rental-car forms and dive-boat cup-o-soup: "Why adventure writing?"
"Because I'm sick of spa reviews," I say, just to fill airtime.
Massage-ennui isn't the whole story, of course. I crave that moment, poised between action and danger and introspection, where the pleats of the universe soften a little. I breathe easier there.
I'm not alone. Tim Cahill claims risk is a form of therapy. He's fond of quoting Diane Ackerman's book, On Extended Wings: "You become so thoroughly concerned with acting deftly, in order to be safe, that only reaction is possible. You shed the centuries and feel creatural.
"Of course, you do have to scan, assess, and make constant minute decisions. But there is nothing like thinking in the usual methodical way. What takes its place is more akin too informed instinct. For a compulsively pensive person, to be fully alert, but free of thought, is a form of ecstasy."
A label exists for such lunacy: T-type, as in thrill-seeking. Some even lump "extreme intellectuals" into this category the sort who miss six meals during the rapture of an equation.
We're a ragtag bunch, all right. But not without merit.
"Some scientists ... see a willingness to take big risks as essential for success," Paul Roberts notes in Psychology Today. "[It may] explain why some dare to run for office, launch a corporate raid, or lead a civil-rights demonstration...
"In a rich and safety-obsessed country like America, land of guardrails, seat belts, and personal-injury lawsuits, everyday life may have become too safe, predictable, and boring for those programmed for risk-taking."
My case is fairly mild. I boulder, but would never free-climb steep rock. I dive, but doubt I'll ever solo. I offer to bus across guerilla zones, but usually find a way around it...
And, oh yeah, I freelance for a living, sans safety net: no partner, no day job, no trust fund. How fool is that?
Except something in the edge resonates. So when I was headhunted for a Masters of the Universe job recently, I pondered a few hours (all those zeroes!), then demurred.
See, I like who I see in the mirror now the writer, editor and instructor with holes in her favorite cashmere. That T-type has a complete smile.