I was hiking with a new close friend up Woods Gulch a few weekends ago, and it felt great to be alive, in a beautiful place, in a budding relationship. Spring. New green. New growth. Gorgeous trillium flowers abounded alongside mountain streams. Bear scat and wolf tracks lingered on shadowed snowbanks, with gorgeous views beckoning in all directions. Less than a mile from the trailhead on our way out, we saw a huge cinnamon-colored black bear bolt and run up a steep hillside. We were both awed and amazed at our good fortune, not only in seeing a bear, but with its choice to flee and create a happy ending for everyone.

I feel pretty clear-headed and fearless in nature, unlike struggles with committing to and being responsible for who and where I am in the “real world”. There are fewer distractions and possibilities (at least in my mind) vying for attention out there. It seems easier to be here now, and to stay focused on the next step I’m taking, which will lead to the next step. And that’s o.k. That’s all I can really do, anywhere. Remembering and embodying that back in the  human world, where livelihood, neighborhood, friendship, intimacy and relationship collide and converge, has traditionally been a trickier place to integrate and practice this.

But nature ultimately teaches me to be unafraid of who and where I am, or where I am going. It was the wellspring that nourished and healed through heartache and exasperation as a long-distance relationship unraveled and disintegrated, even though Yellowstone was the magical place that had also first brought us together. It became the unshakeable foundation upon which I discovered the courage, inner strength and healing to come out. It continues to fuel and feed me, when I remember to pay attention, to listen, and to hear.

Time in nature also teaches that every day truly can be different, that I never really walk the same path or trail twice, if I keep my heart and eyes wide open, and choose to see, experience, express and allow things to become different. There is no “Groundhog Day” in the natural world, just in the human-constructed one. Every day can be the best day of my life, if I so choose.

I’m at another trail juncture, navigating an even greater wilderness, more excited and hopeful than afraid, where two human hearts and souls intersect, and where there are no road or trail maps. I dare to go there.