back to forest roots

I’m a lucky lady.

There are lots of reasons why this is true (caucasian, American, from a middle-class family). But today I’m feeling grateful about the fact that my parents chose to raise me in an area of the world that is so ecologically diverse, so wild, so green, and yet so accessible. And that they encouraged my engagement and love of it all.

From a very young age I can remember ‘helping’ my Dad while he packed for long weekends in the mountains. I can feel the silky inside of his sleeping bag where I would hide until he’d have to tempt me out with the promise of a harness ride. These involved being tied into his far too large harness, and then hanging on and squealing while he spun me around in circles in the living room. I can remember there being a nervous energy during these moments. It might have been my young mother watching her husband gear up to spend a few days skirting cliffs and crevasses, at the mercy of the weather and gravity and fate. Yet they did it, because it was important.

After a close call with a crevasse soon after my little sister was born, Dad hung up his crampons. But when we went on weekend family outings, hikes into the various state and national parks that surround our home, I can remember that it always seemed like a big deal. In retrospect, some of that might just have been the stress of getting four kids out of the house on a Saturday, driving into the wilderness, and then marching them up a trail all day while listening to them whine. But I think my parents felt then how I feel now, that there is something spiritual and good and important that one discovers when immersed in the wild. I may have whined then, but the feeling lingered.

Even when my life was at its most hurtful and hopeless, there was always a part of me that knew I needed to get out there. To find those wild places. I lost touch, but even in the darkest times I would turn to the wild places for a brief respite.

One of the first things I did when I got sober was to start jogging. It felt good to be doing something good for my body, and it helped my quiet those hurtful internal voices. My husband, being how he is, encouraged me and continued to push me to try more stuff. Before long I was a member of a local mountaineering club, training with kindred strangers in the forest, camping in the snow, learning all sorts of fun and useful things and eventually attempting to summit big scary mountains just like Dad had. It felt wonderful and important.

 

I lost touch again with the outdoors for awhile after having my babies. I found it hard to prioritize my own physical health once I became so consumed with someone else’s. But ultimately it was them that brought me back once again to the wilds.

To see a waterfall for the first time again through the eyes of your child is a most wondrous thing. To hear the distant thumping of a woodpecker and watch their excitement as they scan the forest trying to be the first to spot it in action. To feel the piercing cold of a mountain stream and squeal right along with the kids as it rushes around your ankles. To sing songs through the ‘tree tunnels’ and play tag up the trail. For these moments let us be truly grateful.

 

Through re-experiencing the outdoors with my kids, I’ve realized that nature is my church and my gym. It’s my spiritual connection. These are the places where I need to recharge my soul, examine my emotions, exert my body physically. I love the exploration of a new trail, the way my curiosity is reborn by a new plant or a strange insect or a new beautiful bird call. There are so many greens in my part of the world.

I’m turning to nature once again in a big way, and it is soothing that she is still there for me. As I rediscover my intuition and attempt to sort out what the second half of my life will look like, I’m grateful to my parents for the gift of the outdoors. My hope for the future is that I will not again stray from the green, and that the healing energies of the wilds will guide me. That my heart will stay green.

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