“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir
After two soul-crushing treks into the wilderness; one where I came within millimeters of plummeting off a cliff before arresting my fall and the next where another fall and injury sapped my strength and caused me to doubt my ability to make it home, I tried a third and final walkabout in nature’s tempest. You see, I need these brushes with nature’s merciless beauty to find peace and harmony, to find my true self.
I set out after a drenching storm the night before into dire warnings of storms today. But this time, I left unafraid of my fate on those stone escarpments bordered in the natural wildflowers of my state.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” ― John Muir
After a long few miles, I began my climb into the mountains and at the top of the first ridge, I came upon a field of rain-soaked plants adorned with countless white flowers. They were head high and the path was nowhere to be seen. And yet, I saw a slight parting and below the overhanging leaves, I found the path. When I finally made my way through the wall of floral air and beckoning wet fingers of leaves, my clothes were soaked in dew and clinging nature. My time was a right of passage that had turned back the very few souls that had ventured here before. I would be alone and first through this obstacle of wet embrace.
“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can”.” ― John Muir
There were many challenges, but I felt strong today. I powered over stone chasms, through darkened paleo tunnels, and out into open air fresh with the mist of morning fog and clean with a new air that smelled of rain, loam, and verdant life. Everywhere birds and scattering little furry things enlivened the soul of the mountains. Eight miles into the climb, I made it to the top and looked out over the canopy rolling like an undulating ocean in the breeze and underneath life called out in shrill songs of aviary composers.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” ― John Muir,
After a brief rest, it was time to head down the other side and I chose a way I had not gone before. Familiarity breeds contempt I’ve heard and yet contempt and careless thought are not possible with the energy found in the challenge of unknown things. I always choose the unknown over the familiar. There are consequences and at times those consequences are a magnificent feast for the soul, a wine sparkling in the effervescent spirit of discovery.
Storm winds grew to deafening cries in the treetops. The woods grew dark as dusk and the bright colors of the day faded to dark grays, umber, and shadowy greens.
And as I hurried against the rising tide of storm clouds bringing rain, I happened on a small temple newly built with a sturdy roof to give shelter to those who drew the wrath of nature’s tempest. I’d found my zen at last.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” ― John Muir