I Need More Wilderness in My Life

After several days of hiking, fishing and canoeing near the Flattops Wilderness and Steamboat Springs with my husband, I’ve concluded three things:

1. I prefer silent hiking. After nearly two years of leading groups on contemplative (silent) hikes, and hiking alone (silently, of course), I have found that it comes naturally to me to just be present in the woods and on the mountain without the need for chatter. I can talk in the car on the way to the trail, I can talk after the hike, but during the hike, I want to experience everything. I want to listen to the land, not to the same five stories I keep retelling myself and others over and over.

2. I need more “silence” in my life. It was refreshing to spend all day in a place where we barely saw any other people. No one on the road, no one on the trail, no one at the Ripple Creek Pass overlook and picnic area. I felt my body settle into a completely different rhythm without the “noise” of cars, machines, and the daily panic of clients, to-do lists, and mainstream media. I ate when hungry, slept when tired, woke when ready for more.

3. I need more wilderness to remind me of what’s really important in life. I saw people who have made a life for themselves in remote, natural places doing things that speak to their soul: running a small marina in the summer and training sled dogs for winter, raising cattle sustainably, making sure people are safe while enjoying a state park area, leading pack trips into wilderness, teaching people to fish and giving people the means to enjoy the thrill of a river from an inner tube. They live in the mountains because they see the value in small-town life, and a simpler life. I admire them.

There is something disturbingly soothing about routine, now that I’m back in it at home. Perhaps as I’m getting older, routine is wearing grooves in me like a river wears streams into canyons. The tributaries of my life–the vacations and getaways–are getting narrower and narrower, but there are more of them. They’re necessary to keep the river from overflowing its banks or rushing too quickly downstream. I will churn my way downstream, down the destiny of my life, and hope that somewhere up ahead there’s a tributary large enough to take me into a calmer, more wild landscape again—perhaps for good.