Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.



My time in Japan was attended by frequent adventure alone into some of the most beautiful and exotic landscapes in Asia. Places people simply don’t go as well as places where people simply no longer care to go. In either case there was a rich aesthetic of the exotic orient, and an atmosphere of the strange, different and truly ancient. Even in the most remote mountain depths I felt that quality everywhere about me, and I think the atmosphere was picked up by my camera which heavily augmented my videos with a character which was so much more than I could hope to convey on my own. Watching a little of this video I could see the difference… The desert is a place apart in so many ways. And the deep desert ever more so, especially when experienced alone, and more so still when penetrating into places where there’s no more promise of company than solitude itself. In such a place the voice cracks and words spill fast from the mouth with very little censorship or editing. It’s a very different venue for me and one I’m struggling to find my footing in as a content creator. This video lacks everything Japan had to offer. In it’s place is a different quality derived entirely from the environment, with the sad distraction of my broken, halting and perhaps somewhat desert-mad narrative.

Look all you like
Go if you really want to know


Close call today. I’ve made it back to the car with just nine minutes of daylight left. Without a flashlight and my car sitting in the middle of the desert with no illumination I would’ve been screwed. Temperatures are beginning to plummet and though I have some warm clothes, the coming rain which I can already see in the hills would’ve been a problem had I become lost.


Years ago I swam across a lake one mile in diameter. I remember reaching the center and worrying a little about the long return in any direction. Three quarters of the way across I was exhausted and wishing a bit that I’d never set out on such a foolish venture. Relief came in the realization that the new shore was quite near, and in resignation that the shore I’d left behind was now just an impossible memory. That’s a little how this family venture from Japan to the USA feels now. The end seems really in sight, and the place we’ve left behind is fading fast, like a memory on a distant horizon.

.Lately, I feel like a spaceman, about to welcome the next wave of colonists to an alien world. How can I make them comfortable? Will they dislike the food here, the natives or Disneyland? How can I counter the inevitable impact of homesickness when there’s no return ticket for at least a decade.


Security may prove more costly than peace of mind.


No I don’t invite depravity
Though I do welcome it’s challenge


The hardest part of every solo adventure isn’t being alone in the wilds at night, or stranded by the side of the road, or even kidnapped by a psycho driving you out into the woods (happened to me). It’s mustering the damn strength to step foot outside the door and alone into an unknown day. I’ve been doing it for decades and it never really gets any easier…


Frontiers mute authority


One of the best things about being in my own country again is the chance it offers to face down challenges and responsibility on native terms.


Distance renders some wonders irrelevant


Interesting… I currently live in a Mexican barrio in Los Angeles. I drink cheap Mexican beer (Tecate) on the weekend and all the Mexican men drink Bud Light. I guess the grass is indeed always perceived to be greener.


Perhaps the best way to hike is to stop from time to time and let the landscape do the walking.


For a time in my 20s I didn’t wear shoes. It was hard at first though my feet soon toughened, and I walked with ease over every surface, without discernible wear and feeling everything. I wonder what might become of my consciousness, should I give up my learned conventions of thought, and trod treadless across the landscape of mind.


I will leave The Machine to it’s own devices
And follow the Path Of Wildness
Though the ends must be the same
The results are likely worlds apart


Unused freedom is most potent

Wield freedom with caution and aforethought. Reckless spontaneity is for the timid.

My thoughts wander no further
Than the limits of my ravenous lust

When I was 18 ideas flashed past my consciousness too fast and fleeting to catch or even properly apprehend. At 28 I squeezed them from my mind with crayons and loud music; raw, textured notions wholly adolescent and shaped like cliche. 38 allowed no time for such nonsense. 48 finds the ideas returned though now I’m too tired and fed up to attempt to lead, and instead follow meekly wherever the sunlight moves, seeking warmth and thoughtful respite in whatever time remains.


The book I’d never planned to write. Is strangely taking shape. Without my will or overt intervention.


One day five or so years back I was exploring an abandoned trail in the deep mountains near the Japan Southern Alps. It was the height of summer and the danger of giant hornets was very real, as was the threat of moon-bear and wild boars. But my most immediate threat were the dinner plate sized spiders which sat like knowing mountain gods upon broad leaves which bent deep with their weight. The spiders were everywhere, and the fact that few ever came this way meant the trail was lost at times, covered in a thick jungle of spider-infested foliage.

Another threat was a fall. I was moving along a rugged canyon where at times there was nothing between me and the rocks below but the spider-filled green. And while it felt like I was safe, I knew that a fall to the right would quickly pass through the spiders and into open air, and the end.

I was just about to give up and go back when I came to an open area of forest where the trail was more distinct, and where I spotted a great rock at the top of a waterfall. The rock was the size of a garage and though it was covered with slippery moss there was little ground cover due to the fact of an enormous wild cherry tree growing from the crown. The tree was utterly immense, and couldn’t have been better placed by the mind of a novelist or the direction of a theater stage artist. There were boulders leading to the top of the stone, and what appeared to be the faintest trace of an old path up the side.

As I started up I came to a tricky spot where I needed to stop and secure a better hand-hold. While re-positioning my gear and grabbing the rocks I noticed two yellow eyes looking at me from less than a foot directly in front of my face. It was an enormous mountain toad. An utterly massive specimen of a species of toad which inhabits even the highest peaks of those mountains, and which Japanese mythology associates with spirits. The toad was swollen and snug within a niche of the rocks, and we stared for a moment before I continued to the top.

When I reached the top my head spun from a quick look over the far edge. A sheer drop of 20 meters to the river below, and the great canopy of the tree above, was more perspective than I could take. There wasn’t any very good place to sit, though I made myself as comfortable as I could and decided to just wait and let the experience come to me. This was one of those adventures where emotions can take one quickly in and out without ever really touching the moment as it occurs. Recognizing this as one such case I forced my body and mind to halt. I just let the mountain be, and while the giant toad guarded my retreat I looked up at the great overarching branches of a tree which more properly belonged in a classic Japanese novel than along a nearly forgotten trail so deep in the mountains of Japan than few or none may ever visit it again.

After I’d had my fill, or perhaps the tree had enough of me, I put my pack back on and turned to go down. That’s when I spotted something strange sticking out of the side of the tree. I knew what it was, though I couldn’t believe it was there. What I saw was the corner of an old granite stone, a hand-carved monument covered in Japanese writing I could not read. The tree had long ago enveloped most of the stone, so now all that remained was the near corner. The stone was weathered and covered in a thin layer of decomposing lichen. Despite this fact, the Chinese characters where clear, at least the few I could see. All at once a story came together in my mind.

I suspect that long ago, when the trail I was exploring was in regular use, others had noted the giant rock, and the tree, or had maybe even planted the tree. Someone also decided to mark the spot, or perhaps to tell a story about the trail, the canyon, or the tree. And this was the writing I had seen.

The stone was mostly gone, as was the trail. The story or whatever message once accompanied that tree and spot are also nearly gone. I expect that by the time I’m dead the stone will have vanished entirely into that great cherry tree in the mountains. Which is hardly a shame, as the place itself is already largely forgotten, though it holds a dear and noble archetype of beauty and meaning to almost every Asian mind.


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