Last week, I found myself lost on a mountain at night, sweaty, dizzy and delusional from breathing in smoke from faraway forest fires and pondering bad decisions.
I have been hiking to the top of Mount Erie most evenings in the last five months to get ready for a solo, long distance backpacking trip in the North Cascades. At least until the air was poisoned.
I was feeling cabin feverish last Friday and my phone told me the air was only hazardous to sensitive people, so I decided to do my usual hike.
Which turned out to be a bad decision.
Alone on the small mountain, I felt sick and confused, like when I was a teenager and took a few puffs from a giant cigar made out of dried grass as a joke with friends.
As I sat on a log and shooed away the fairies circling my head, my mind turned to the newspaper and the amount of news that is the result of poor decision making. That’s a thing attorneys often say in court. Their clients made some very bad decisions.
Usually it’s the result of substances. Like the guy who broke into a garage and ate frozen bacon from a freezer, or the one-shoe man who was recently caught in Burger King in the middle of the night, cooking himself a meal.
Politicians don’t have that excuse, but are apparently stone-cold sober when they do things like cut down a beloved tree without notice, try to bill the newspaper for conducting an interview or doctor a hurricane map with a Sharpie.
It’s been a year of bad ideas, with or without help from substances. Drunk texting, bad memes and online trolling are at epidemic level, as are late-night Amazon shopping sprees. I’ve made some of the worst decisions of my life, which included buying Lite Bright for Adults and an inflatable Han Solo and agreeing to edit someone’s book of cat poetry.
Of course, many bad ideas are a lot less harmless, especially in a year of deadly irony.
Up on the smoky trails, I made peace with this year of bad news, claptrap and self sabotage. I slowly made my way out of the woods in the darkness, nauseous but alive.
Which is how I imagine most of us will make it out of the year 2020.
• Jessie Stensland is editor for the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org