My only brother, Mike Bailey, died this summer, alone and in despair, and by his own hand. In our pain and dismay, all of us who loved him search for meaning and lesson in the devastating loss of a magnificent man. I don’t want to be unnecessarily maudlin here, but I think a lot about Mike and when I think about my connection to our landscape and my desire to help protect the natural places we have left, I often think of my brother.
For a number of years Mike and I would take some time out and don our backpacks and head off, just us two, for a few days into some place remote. Most often we went to the Wind Rivers or into the Uintas, once to summit Mt. Shasta on the 4th of July, watching the fireworks in all the surrounding small towns from the shoulder of Shasta, camped in solitude 10,000 feet above the surroundings. The time out was often a healing retreat for my brother. Mike was was married and divorced three times and more than once he sought me after a divorce and off we would go. I can see now, so clearly in hindsight, that Mike had been dealt a demon, that he was going to be plagued all his life with debilitating insecurity, doubt and subsequent depression. It is ironic, because when he was on he was brilliant, a top of his class engineer, a successful career at Intel from which he was able to retire in his 40′s to build his own vineyard from raw ground. In his late 40′s and early 50′s he kept getting stronger and stronger on his bikes and skis, competing against men half his age on 200 mile bike races and beating most of them. How could a guy like that slip so low? What did he need?
Mike and I were at odds at the end of his life. I didn’t know or think he could sink so deep, but all the same, we lost him. The segue here is that I can’t help thinking, knowing really, that some more time in the wild with my brother, might easily have saved him — the wild is healing that way, and it’s such a powerful way to re-connect with someone one is close to. I think it is part of the reason I feel protecting the sacred, healing, spiritually wild places we have left is so important. It might be part of what I owe to my brother, to do what I can to explore the power of connections, to each other and to the wild of life. -Mark Bailey