The river rushed a few feet away from where I stood. The crisp feeling of fall settled in the air as the sun shone gently through the trees. I looked across the river to see the shades of the leaves turn a vibrant yellow that juxtaposed the dark green and light brown of the surrounding land. I remember standing in the same place two years ago. The Fall after working at a summer camp that now captivated my heart in nostalgia and the feeling of acceptance. The wilderness here was a place that felt like home. Where people saw my heart for what it truly is. Fellow staff members saw me through the walls I tried to hide behind. The walls I had so carefully built so others would not see my pain. All they did was ask the simple question that made it all crumbling down. As the rubble of protection lay at my feet, I was able to speak in truth. Beyond the pain and tears, I was able to create friendships that were real. Even as the seasons have changed, friendships have come and gone. But as my best friend walked beside me on the trail, I realized our friendship was embedded and indebted to this space in the wilderness. Our friendship was formed on hammocks that swung in between ponderosa pines. Amongst the tears of wrestling with who we were and what life was about. And the simplicity of seeing one another for exactly who we are.
Upon entering the wilderness, I shut off technology and connection to a world that would bring me outside of the present. I focused on just being present. Listening intently. Sharing deeply. By the fireside I wrote while sipping on zen tea. I wrote in reflection upon the pain in my spine and where life stood right in this moment. As the words flowed from my subconscious, I wrote the words ‘I am content’. Words I do not often say to myself. In this moment by the fire curled up next to my best friend, I felt completely at home. Our friend who graciously hosted us all weekend walked in and filled the room with laughter and joy. The muscles in my stomach were sore from the laughter that echoed deep from within my heart. Pure joy radiated from the smile that escaped from my lips.
Focusing on the present, but reflecting upon the past allowed my heart to heal for the future. Recognizing all that has been, all that has created who I am now, and all that I hope to accomplish. Perhaps the deep conversations about the struggle of the day to day life will come to no conclusions as the world spins time forward. But it creates space to discuss the hidden topics of life. The topics we are afraid to speak due to the nature of being vulnerable. In the wilderness I allowed the topics to flow in words and conversation. The choice to be raw and real. Unshowered and unpresentable. Yet their is beauty in it. We all fear being real, but imagine if we all were. In the wilderness is where I can embrace the raw vulnerability of life. Scream at the edge of the mountain. Write by the fireside. And hold my friends dear. In the wilderness I unplugged and listened to the whisper of the woods and the echoes of joyous laughter. In the wilderness I stood not alone, but with those who have taken the time to know my heart and help it grow. For every season I am able to return, I am able to open my heart up once again and embrace all that has been and all that is to come.