I’ve sat here at my laptop over the last week trying to pull out a story to share with all of you. Something to get you outside and enjoying our Colorado outdoors, something educational about our wildlife. Just… something.
We haven’t had any respectable amount of snow in the mountains, giving the trails a beige and barren look (until this afternoon, anyway). It felt like we were in limbo between fall and winter, stuck in this unattractive environment that is sprinkled with the daily nonsense of digital madness falling on us like sleet on a hike we were completely unprepared for.
So, there aren’t snowshoeing trails to share with you or fun winter activities to embark on. Yet.
Ever since the election, it feels like people are falling apart. Some of them truly are, and some of them are getting sucked down the circling drain through the constant barrage of news being shared on social media. I was lucky enough to be on my 7th Week Break during all of that. If you’re not familiar with the 7th Week Break, here’s a short post with details. I’ve been doing this consistently for the last 2 years and it has been an absolute life saver, let alone a sanity saver.
I’d like to think I was smart enough to have that break scheduled during the election, but I’m not. Luck and coincidence were just looking out for me.
As people were falling apart after the election and the collective sense of dread grew each day, I realized how much the outdoors had provided me with solace and sanctuary during the most tumultuous times in my life. How breathing in the trees and listening to the Poudre river calmed my anxieties. How boots on the trail helped me to sort through the swirling thoughts in my mind and gain balanced perspective. And how the mountains helped me develop solid coping mechanisms.
Spending time in nature and disconnecting from society allows you to reconnect with yourself. It provides a moment to gain understanding of the big picture so that you have the ability to focus on the details when you’re back in the office and reading through the social media screaming matches.
I actually didn’t spend that much time in the mountains last week. I hiked to The Loch in Rocky Mountain National Park on a day that was cold enough to kill my iPhone battery so I couldn’t take photos for Instagram. Then I spent the rest of the week with my husband and with my closest circle of friends, drinking way too much wine and tequila and dancing my ass off.
The wilderness has taught me to live life to the fullest, and the fullest I did live last week.
But, I realized that even though I wasn’t gaining reprieve from my deeply loved trails in those moments, I had already reaped the rewards from all of those many times on the trail before. I felt calm, balanced and helpful enough to be a listening ear to friends who were struggling. I wouldn’t have been able to say that two years ago.
I thought about the dichotomy between “civilization” (quotes, because I find society to be terribly uncivilized at the moment) and the wilderness. Quotes from Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite mountain hermit authors, started percolating through my mind. The parallels are astounding right now.
I also read Walden during an elk scouting trip with each word bouncing off my heart as I sat next to a crackling campfire surrounded by golden aspen. Some of those quips began to resurface in these moments last week. I often joke about my internal struggle of saying “fuck it” to modern day life and run off to live as a homesteading recluse in some remote canyon. I felt like I knew exactly how this pioneer felt over 152 years ago.
Different lifetimes, different people, same thoughts and frustrations, same love for nature as an introspective soul salve.
So, if you’re feeling anxiety and stress take over – either in your personal life or from the digital downpour of life crap from politics – turn it off. Disconnect. Head for the wilderness. Breathe in the fresh air and let your boots help you sort through your thoughts. Do it over and over again until you start to feel better.
The mountains aren’t going to fix anything external, but they sure as hell will help your heart. So when the world falls apart, head for the wilderness.