Context. Appreciation of a story can happen without it. Understanding a story cannot possibly happen without it. I was on a seven day, 75mi hike through the Olympic Mountains in Washington State with four friends. One of the guys had parked his car at the end of the hike and he joined us in another car that took us to the start of the hike. The driver of the second car was only hiking with us for 3 days, so we were then left with the car at the end of the hike to get home. It was late September and the weather was beautiful. At mile 26, on day 4, there was a 3000ft climb for about 2 miles. That was a brutal climb with full packs. But it was worth every drop of sweat. A lake awaited at the top and I fished it that afternoon in the sunshine, falling asleep on a big rock overlooking the lake. We continued on through the Low Divide between Mount Seattle and Mount Christie, headed towards the Grave Creek trailhead where the car was parked. On day six, I asked the guy who the car belonged to if we were going to finish the next day, on day seven. He replied, “No, I think I want to stay another couple of days.” I explained that I had only taken the required number of days off of work for the hike and also had to take my young son to the doctor, so I had to be back on the evening of day seven. The next morning, day seven, I asked him again. His reply was the same. I told him that his decision had put me in a difficult position. Go or stay. It was 12 miles down the mountain to the car and another 18mi to the highway from the trailhead. I bid everyone farewell at about 12 noon and started down the mountain with a full pack. It must have been about 7:30pm when I knocked on the front door of the ranger cabin at the trailhead. “Is there any shuttles that come in from the highway?”, I asked him. He said no. I then explained my situation and he offered me a cabin for the night, but I said no thanks, I had to go. The ranger was not happy. I left my pack leaning up against the car with a tarp over it and a note that said “Thanks a lot” and started to walk the gravel forest service road. A couple of hours later the batteries on my flashlight died and I was thrust into the darkness. I guess I must have been about eight or nine miles down the road at that point. It was a good thing it was full moon. Most of the way, the moon was hidden by the mountain next to me and I used a stick to sweep the road in front of me while I walked and tried to stay on the gravel road. There are a lot of weird noises at night in the middle of nowhere. Right next to me came a very loud crash and then extremely heavy foot steps, walking about 10ft to my left keeping pace with my walk. I was terrified. Whatever that was, it headed off into the forest and I could hear it crashing away to my left. Never did figure out what that was. I was more concerned about big cats. There a lot of big cougars in the area and usually they hunt at night. Still, I kept walking. I made it out to the highway at about 2:30am. There were a few cars passing by, so I stood on the side of the road with my thumb out. No luck. I did not have a cell phone on me and as luck would have it, I actually found a pay phone and called a cab. The nearest town was 10 miles away and they came and picked me up. The driver said “where to?” I told him, “Seattle”. He said “that’s two hundred miles away!” I said I don’t care, I will pay you. So he drove me back to the little logging town that Kurt Cobain grew up in and told his boss he was headed to Seattle. I slept the entire way in the back seat. We got to my truck that was parked in front of the house of the guy that had the car at the trailhead at about 6:30am. I paid the cabbie and then drove home, took a shower and went to work.
Knowing how, why and where an idea comes from helps to completely understand an idea, and that either deepens the appreciation or gives a reason to disagree with it. In our sound bite world, we seem void of context. The news tells 30 second stories without context. Most of the time, the stories are told to try and create interest and keep our short attention spans focused. But we are not usually given the context of the situation. Twitter uses 140 characters to tell ideas. Text messages are even shorter than that. Each of us apply our own perceptions on what is being said and most of the time we are wrong.