1Vision-Quest-smVision Quest

Poem: A Tribe Apart [1] – Jonathan Thompkins


Vision Quest:

Wilderness is survival by knowledge of nature and wits

Reality is a slippery slope

Lonely spiritual wanderer, kayaking, listening to Grateful Dead, an initiate up on ancient pathway to manhood

The footpath north toward Signal Knob

Senior year is the last one to get things right

Mancub, king of the mountain, friend of all living things

Hooked on playing a native drum with Grateful Dead tapes


Expressing feelings in rhythms and song trouble speaking directly

Four small brown & white chickadees are part of this place and so am I

Pain of leaving Andy, Allan, Bill, Joan and parents is so great he moans aloud and writhes in agony

How delicate the balance is for what makes us happy

Nothing seems to be happening, everything is happening

Berates himself for not being more sensitive to those he cares about

Shroud of pain and failure engulfing him lifts with the rising stars

Belief in the capacity to change

Maybe four sunrises and four sunsets equal four days

Parents getting old and dying soon; not being a good son

When the Big Apple Circus came to town, Jonathan Tompkins took his mom


Honor & Other Relative Things

Small-minded to say animals don’t make choices

Ethics as something you need for your job? Really?

Value: environment, friends, outdoor sports

Who gets the heart transplant?

Calculus? Ethically I would cheat

Take responsibility for our actions

Don’t do something if you can’t live up to it

Rudder to navigate the world that lies ahead

Vision Quest isolated me so much from the average person, I felt like some kind of creep

Schools are like prisons; they don’t teach you how to live

Society doubts, but most doubts are about myself

If the world doesn’t change, how can we?


Shedding Light on Darkness:

Steamy heat and lush greenery intoxicating

Winter: depression enters life like a rolling fog

The cold long darkness of winters in Alaska destroyed his parents’ marriage

Unrelenting gloom of endless nights

Feeling responsible for jump-starting his parents

Pressure an only child feels from being family glue gets to him

School is a boring blur of wasted time inspiring little effort

Sun sears away inner fog and shadows

The ocean draws him toward new frontiers of seeing

Coconuts look like wizened faces that crack open revealing luscious, sweet flesh

Teacher: take however long it takes, until people get comfortable

No room in school for honesty; it breaks your spirit, pushing you further and further down the hole

It tears your soul to pieces

It devastates your self-esteem

Everything in there is awkward

Something catches your eye and you’re like, Geez, how does that work?

High school takes ninth graders and turns them into metal poles, taking off all the edges

It is beautiful to see people set free

That’s fucked up, that’s fucked up, that’s fucked up

Feel so real like I am in the center of the galaxy


Barracuda, stalking us like wolves stalking antelope

Drugs allow looking back on what’s going on; becoming part of nature

Now or never

Happy people who have light in their eyes

Making connections at different levels

Trashed out, my mind started falling downhill

“Hold judgment to yourself lest you wind up on this road”


The Great Unknown of College Lies Ahead:

Kayaking: a total mind-body connection, confidence and euphoria

Perceives things more clearly on the river, it’s not me, it’s society

Just leave civilization

Katherine Brady


[1] Patricia Hersch, A Tribe Apart, NY: Random House, 1998.


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