Someone at a gathering on the 4th of July asked me an interesting question. He said “How many days a year do you think you are out in the woods?” Realistically I probably get out for a day trip for close to 50% of the weeks of a year. It used to be more like 80% of the weeks. However, Life calls in many ways….
Then there are two long (5-7 day) backpacks a year and several other shorter ones (2-4 days). Add that up and it is close to 2-3 months of time/year!
Upon being asked that question and as all of the above flashes through my mind, gratitude is the first emotion that arises. Spending time close to Mother Earth in all seasons for me is innate, healing, grounding, inspiring, resilience-producing, rejuvenating, immune strengthening and so many other things.
The latest research shows that for every day one spends in Nature, it provides a seven-day boost to the immune system. At the cellular level and beyond. Anyone who spends time in Nature already knows this. Especially when one carries all one needs on their back venturing away from civilization completely on purpose.
When one goes on a backpack it is known that Life will include some likely discomforts: bugs, getting wet and/or cold, often mediocre food, and possibly sore muscles/joints.
At the same time the benefits abound. Possible wildlife sightings, friendship, camaraderie, incredible vistas, and close-ups, awe-inspiring sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, moonsets and starry night skies. Even more importantly– the deep interconnection that arises as you sleep close to Mother Earth, breathe fresh mountain air, sense the direct ion and energetic exchange with the waters, flowers, tree elders, mountains, other than human beings, and your own deep soul coming ‘home’ to it’s own indigenous roots.
Finding a tent site, getting water, preparing, cleaning, and hanging food are top on the list for survival. At the same time one’s skills of creativity, patience, resilience, strength, courage, holding paradox, and being present are always being called upon to show up in more and more refined ways.
I see backpacking as a microcosm of our bigger world macrocosm. As a collective energetic field, we are all on a journey together. A journey to learn how to steward our home in co-creative relationship with Mother Earth. Just like a trip into the mountains. We must carry an open heart, a courage to be able to abide in some potential discomfort, and patience for adapting to Nature’s time.
So many people today are challenged with being able to sit in the face of some type of discomfort. Not through forced will but with courage, curiosity, and an abiding continuance for remaining present to the unfolding, dynamic, and changing moment.
The payoff for the discomforts that are present on any journey far outweigh the discomforts. Even if there is a downpour and everything gets wet, even if the bugs are relentless, even if you ‘get lost’. Life is in a constant flux of change. The sun will come back out and things will dry, the seasons shift, the bugs cycle through, and life’s moments of ‘wandering lost’ offer novel insights. These moments are the very place where the deep transformation of skill building occur.
To me, being able to develop skills of patience, compassion, fearlessness, and gratitude is what is being asked of our collective. Sensing, feeling and seeing all of the challenges that are present in our world today are like looking for a tentsite during an impending hailstorm, having to go an extra distance when tired in order to find water, or staying calm when ‘lost’.
On my most recent backpack to the northern side of Mt. St. Helen’s we stood at the edge of the blast zone from 1980. As we stood on Goat Ridge, to our north was an endless expanse of forest that was not disturbed in 1980 when Mt. St. Helen’s blew her top. To our south was a 38-year old returning forest that had been wiped clean in 1980. It was a powerful place to stand. The moment we are standing in as a collective is not much different.
Keeping intentions clear for the direction you are going, heartmind open, a deep visceral sensation that everything is ONE interconnected Web of Life keeps us on the path towards a bigger awakening. That is the evolutionary principle that is innate to that living breathing Web of Life.
How can we keep moving forward in service to the whole? Can we recognize that difficult traits in one person are just a microcosm of the same challenges in our bigger macrocosm and also live in each of us personally?
Can we stand stand tall and offer refuge in the storm recognizing we are all in this together?
The two to three months a year I spend in the woods are my cathedral and a powerful class here in Earth School. I cherish those moments.