Outside In – Uphill


by Marc Piane

Day 1

As raindrops hit the bare skin on my arms I could feel each drop like a little spike of cold. The feeling shot up my spine. I got goosebumps. I could almost imagine the jolt of electricity running through my nervous system. Because of some nerve damage I had years ago the sensation was slightly different in my right arm. On my left arm the raindrops felt cold and wet but drops felt almost like boiling water on my right. Each drop made we wince. My mind wandered to the thought of the difference in sensation due to damaged wiring and to the mechanical part of our perception of the world.

The rain began to fall a little harder. Hiking always generates body heat and the rain felt good, for now. I always find the sound of rain in the forest very soothing. The pitter-patter of thousands of droplets as they hit the leaves. The smell of rain always relaxes me too. Very smooth and calming.

As I hiked along I could feel the grade of the trail gradually increase and my quadriceps started to burn. The only problem with rain is it makes the backpack a little heavier.

My mind wandered back to the difference in perception between my arms. The human body as biological robot. So much of our perception of the world is based on our senses. I remember reading a book by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio where he talks about our perception and associations with experiences being formed over our lifetime and each new experience being based on pervious experience. Each of us has a different life experience thus each of us perceives the world differently. Robert Anton Wilson calls it “reality tunnels”. Over a lifetime we build our tunnel. Philosophers like Camus call it the absurd. Subjective reality. Wilson talks about how is is surprising that our “reality tunnels” ever intersect with our life experiences all being unique and yet somehow they do.

The rain started to slow down to a very light drizzle. The rain was just enough to cool things down a bit and add a humidity to the air. The air became very still and a slight fog started to form. As I ascended the trail I noticed the change in the underbrush. Down in the valley there were ferns and moss on everything. As I headed up the mountain I saw it change to deciduous bushes. I wasn’t sure of the variety but the change was noticeable.

I tried to take my mind off the fact that my pack felt increasing heavy as I walked uphill by focusing on my breath. I had been walking for about 2 hours or so and was starting to get a little tired and hungry. I decided it was time to take a break. I took off my pack and leaned it up against a tree. I open the side pocket and fished around inside it for a granola bar. When I found one I grabbed my water bottle and sat down on a rock on the trail’s edge.

I began listen. As I listened more and more sounds met my ears. It was like the forest was waiting for this moment to play me its symphony. In reality that symphony is always going. I had just stopped to listen.


Marc Piane

Bassist and composer Marc Piane is a self proclaimed jack of all trades, master of none. His love of his family, music, cooking, gardening, coffee, photography, yoga, and education means that he is severely under-employed but having way too much fun to have it any other way. He plays frequently with jazz saxophonist Chris Greene and much less frequently with is own group Walk East. He co-founded and co-directs the Summer Lab On Stage program, a theatre program for 5th-8th graders, at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. He also teaches privately at the Chicago School of Music. His love of jazz and black coffee runs deep, consequently he rarely sleeps. His list travels are too many to list here but you can go to his website at www.marcpiane.com to find out more.