I’m not sure I can put it into words what it has meant being here.
The days are long and full, but a week goes by in a flash and without ever cursing what day of the week it is or counting down the days until Friday. All days, even the days I work, feel like the weekend.
The cool, clean air filling my lungs when I step out of the employee lounge with a mug of hot coffee each morning makes my whole body sigh. And leaving base camp at 10:30 p.m. and riding my bike home in dusky, bright light makes me feel like a child again.
And looking up at that mountain, Cecil, or whichever mountain I happen to wake up next to that day, makes me feel small again, something you never feel in this age of airplanes and TV and Google.
And sometimes I am so in love with every single person and plant and animal and mountain and minute here, it makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time.
And listening to the river gurgle and flow behind me as I fall asleep is like the earth singing me to sleep with a slow, beautiful lullaby.
And on those rare days when I get to see the orange or pink glow of a sunset, I feel still and right in the world.
And sometimes I laugh so hard and feel so loved by these people whom I should call strangers, these people who I instead call family after only a month, that I want to hug them and never let go, and sometimes I do and they don’t think a single thing of it, but instead they hug me right back.
And sometimes I feel so, so very sad for everyone who neglects themselves by not sitting alone in the woods every day or every week or even every month, because I know that if they did the world would have far more happy people and far less people on antidepressants and shooting good people because all the answers they are looking for are right here in the winds swaying the trees and the sun shining through leaves and the dirt under your fingernails and the sun in your eyes.
And sometimes I feel so helpless knowing all of this but not being able to tell everyone. I feel so helpless because my children and their children may never get to see or feel any of this because we’re destroying it.
And so I sit and walk and swim and laugh and run and cry and jump in it all every minute of every day, while it’s still here for me to see and feel.
And it heals me. It makes me whole. It fills me up and completes me. I am more myself in the wild. I am more myself with my hair messy and in a baseball hat, and all the water and food I need on my back, and mud covering my legs and boots, and my arms shiny with a mixture of bug spray and sunscreen, and my face makeupless and dripping with sweat. I’m less lost when I’m lost in the woods.
The earth has never left me. I have left it, but I found my way back and it took me back with a warm embrace.
I used to move mountains, now they move me. They move me to tears, they move to lightness, they move to laughter and to grace. They move me to enlightenment. They move me to life. They have shaken me awake and opened my eyes to all that life has to offer. Not for me to take, but for me to experience and to live within.
The earth raised me and now it has saved me.