An excerpt from Girl Gone Wild:
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When it comes to our relationship to the wild, and our comfort in it, the problem is that there is nothing in the wild for us to consume. There is no story line or Hollywood effects, no sale signs, no conveniences, and no bonus rounds. In the American wild, now, as always, there is only you, and the land. Even with the rush of over-development in the last fifty years the wide-open spaces of America are vast and breath-taking, but they offer only the intangible effects that come with the opening of the spirit. The real value of these gifts is only recognized with practice and patience. Time teaches us to understand the world at its own tempo, on the larger timescales of geology and evolution rather than in the 24 hour news cycle soundbites to which we have become accustomed. In order to step into the wild, we need to step away from our need to acquire it.
The same thing can be said of ego. So maybe you do not look your prettiest, maybe you are slower than the other hikers, maybe you look silly in a big sun hat. Who cares? Have fun, live life, relish not having to be right or the best, or prove yourself in any way. Have patience with and compassion for yourself; recognize that everything else is in its natural and flawed state in the wild too, without diminishing its beauty or grandeur. You are in the wilderness, no one is watching, its not going to end up on Facebook or Youtube unless you put it there, so enjoy yourself just as you are.
I know, from deep within my body that being outside is good for me, mind, body, and soul. I know from watching others and hearing their stories that the wilderness is good for them too. I know from personal experience that my friends that spend regular time outside are less likely to to have problems with weight, mental health, or drug and alcohol abuse. I know that a walk outside gives me time to breath and think and sort myself out. I know that when I am unhappy, facing challenges, or in need of comfort, the wilderness provides it. I know that no one asks to have their ashes scattered at the mall.
The wilderness restores me. Not just in the way that fresh air and light raise your spirits and clear your head; it has always been the thing to which I turn in the troubled times of my life. To walk in the woods, to feel what it is to be a part of the larger systems of the world, to see myself as just another animal in the wild, one that can commune with the birds, watch the fish jump, track the stars across the sky, has always worked to calm my mind and put into perspective the trials of my life. I have walked out heartbreak over miles and miles of trails, sometimes retracing the very paths of the relationship itself; this time last year we walked this trail in the spring, here was where we went snowshoeing. I have made some of the most important life decisions in the wild, wondering if the decision to quit ones job and relocate is still ground shaking if there is no one around to witness it. I have grieved for lost loved ones and celebrated their memories at ocean beaches and mountain vistas. I have talked it out, whatever the it may be, with friends over miles and miles of terrain, sifting through the clutter and debris of our lives, walking and talking.
Being in the wilderness forces us to rely upon ourselves and keep our own company in a way that modern society does not. This is something that is very good for us. I know so many women who lock their doors and close their blinds, that cannot eat out at a restaurant by themselves, that think they cannot change a tire or drive someplace new without getting lost. We cultivate a culture of learned helplessness the result of which is an overpowering sense of loneliness and the loss of our identities as whole, capable persons. Returning to the wild is one way for American women to revitalize ourselves as potent, powerful, and productive participants in the world around us. In the wilderness, I have learned that there is no escape from yourself; that, in fact, so much vast expanse will first force you to address yourself, before allowing you to take it in. So let it go. Let your hair frizz and your nails chip, wear clothing that is comfortable and washable, get dirty, get outside, go wild.