Out Here (written in the field 9/27/12)

The thing about the wilderness is that it equalizes us, it sets us all on flat, even ground. We are all small in the face of mountains, all vulnerable before swelling seas, all dwarfed by the limitless sky. Facing the elements we are our raw, basic selves. All else falls away. In that rawness there is clarity, all the wind on the water going still so we can see straight into the depths.

We are no longer defined by the years we have lived, or what we have been called, or the things we can do. We are all equally young and alive, swaying in the arms of the ancient earth. We are all equally young next to the rocks and the waves.

With us we have only the parts of ourselves we can carry, only what travels with us always. We may find things that have been hidden, we may remember what we had allowed ourselves to forget. We may stretch ourselves taller and wider to mimic towering trees, taller and wider than we might have ever imagined.

Back where we’re from the land is covered. Cloaked in artifice, pounded and blasted and moved and molded to our convenience. Back where we’re from we are covered. Steeped in beliefs that belong to others, folded over and compressed and colored until we forget the feel of our own skin. Out here the grass grows long, the trees grow tall, our eyes open wide.

Where we’re from we are so often looking down, down at the tiny screens we hold in our hands, down at our own feet as we walk, down when we can’t meet someone else’s eyes.

Being out here calls you to look in all directions at once. Not just down, at the plants and animals you walk beside, but out, at all that lies between you and the horizon, up, at the sun and the clouds and the big ancient blue above us, and also in, at the tiny reflection of the universe we hold within our ribs, behind our eyes, in our fingers and ears and mouths and toes. Our eyes no longer squint, trained on abstract things we hold in our hands, they open and clear to take in all that is around us.

Where we’re from we’re kings and queens of concrete, we cradle the power in our hands. Returning to the wild we are reminded that all we have created are constructs, all our control conjured up in our minds. Out here we do not have to go to churches and temples to pray to the idea of something greater, we can simply stand before mountains and see it.

Being out here makes you feel small in ways you need to feel small. We are not all-important, we are not all knowing, we are not invincible. We are blades of grass, we are particles of wind, we are stones smoothed by water. Think of all the trillions of things happening each second all over this planet, the breathing, the flowing, the moving, the growing, the loving, the living, the dying, and try to feel like you are all that matters. You cannot.

Being out here makes you feel big in ways you need to feel big. We are not a set of nine numbers, we are not a one-word definition, we are not contained. There are mountains and seas and skies within us. Try to think of all the shades of yourself, of everything you’ve ever seen or thought or dreamed or felt or believed and try not to feel infinite. You cannot.

Being out in the wild reminds us of all the smallness and largeness of ourselves because this earth, this sea and sky and rock and tree and mountain, this is where we are from. Not a town with a name and a sign, but the ancient, persisting, elemental earth. We are not names and birthdates but hearts and souls reflecting the browns, the greens, the blues.

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