Many people long to be challenged in worthy and meaningful ways, and Erik and I experienced this a little over a week ago on a two-night, three day backpacking trip in the wilds of Yellowstone. It had been several summers since we had undertaken a longer outdoor adventure, with one-night backpacking journeys being the norm for a while, usually in places closer to Missoula and devoid of grizzly bears.
Doing difficult and uncomfortable things from time to time is good for the heart, mind, body, soul and spirit, whether we do them alone or with a larger number of people.. When we step into the great unknown with others, though, we inevitably shift gears from individual survival to a path of co-existence and cooperation. We also commit to journeying through a landscape with no guarantees of our safety and security. Alone and together, in the natural and in “the real world”, we can feel vulnerable and exposed. Time in nature continually reminds us of our relative insignificance, yet also shines a light on our capacity for humility, grace and compassion as a species.
On our Yellowstone journey we experienced moments of ease, flow and contentment, when setting up camp, cooking and enjoying meals together, filtering water from high mountain streams, and putting nearly everything up on a “bear rope” when it was not in use.
Where the wild still rules and reigns, cycles and rhythms of nature and life much older than humanity yield their wisdom and knowledge more readily than they tend to in urban and suburban areas. For a blessed few days, we lived untethered to technology, to-do lists, worries about past and future things, sirens, air and motor vehicle traffic, smoke from wildland fires, and an already ramping up presidential campaign. We gained practice slowing down, being present, and using all of our senses to enjoy what was essentially free to experience, the gift of universal and non-human structured time, time in nature. Time well spent, re-connecting with nature, and with each other.
That was good medicine, and exactly what was needed to get out of our heads, and back into our wild hearts.