As I get out of my car and stretch for my long adventure up the Ramapo Mountains, I realize the traffic of cars passing me. Something about hiking allows me to clear my mind and just think. The essence of nature around me allows me to feel one with the earth and connect on a higher meaning within my life. On the many hikes and trails that I have been on, I always leave the reservation with a deeper connection to my present. From helping me solve a conflict with a friend, or even contemplating my future and what I would like to accomplish before I die, hiking allows me to explore my thoughts through the simplicity of nature. After I stretch out, I begin my hike: passing lakes, a waterfall and thousands of trees. I begin to feel a sense of something missing, one major component, then I recognize, it was the people in the cars passing by.
My hiking trail is located off a main road in Bergen County, near my hometown of Oakland. This main road, Ramapo Valley Road or ‘202’, plays an essential role in avoiding busy highway traffic by traveling through various areas of the county. Many people drive by with out even recognizing the beauty within our backyard.
Just like in the novel, Black Rainbow by Albert Wendt, the Housekeeper tells a tale of a woman walking through doors to find salvation and meaning in her life. What she doesn’t realize is that the answer is right in front of her. Each day she returns to live a life of routine and monotony, a life wasted on the search for what was literally a sign on the door.
In my story, the people traveling down Ramapo Valley Road represent the woman, and hold the same hope as her. The drivers are all searching for a meaning in life, but what they do not notice, is that beyond the parking lot of the reservation rests a world of ideas. The passer-bys take no notice of the reservation, yet of an empty parking lot, and misses the beauty that the nature within our world brings. They go on living their life of ‘purpose’ which only keeps them occupied and distracted from their true ‘search’ for meaning.
Wendt’s novel helps bring light onto the meaning of life and what gives an individual an identity they can call their own. As the message on the door states: “All doors are about other doors they are themselves”(108). Our her/histories may overlap, but we each have a unique sense of self, that no one can take away.
Our sense of self comes from our own perceived notion of ‘purpose’; however we are all connected in the search to find the true meaning of life. “We asked where he’d been. ‘Looking for hope’.” (235) Our life is a symbol of our search and quest for hope, salvation, and happiness.
Wendt’s Black Rainbow challenges our concept of life, by removing what we find gives the most meaning to living: family, faith, and even our past. By removing our perceived purposes, Wendt forces his readers to dig deep and search their soul to find what makes a person an individual.