The Gift of Wild Places
Giddy. Sitting in the parking lot of the Merced Amtrak Station waiting for my friend Greg’s train to arrive from San Francisco, it felt like Christmas morning. Glee. As if it were my first time. In anticipation of this trip, I watched yet another documentary of Yosemite. The first love of my youth. My second home.
I’ve gravitated toward its iconic majesty again and again since our introduction as a young girl. At first glance I thought the attraction was just on the surface; the pull of natural beauty, the smell of fresh alpine air or the incessant sound of rippling water. But as the years rolled on and I played, then hiked, then ran over granite slab after granite slab while sleeping under thick starry skies and bright glowy moons, I got to know its depth. Yosemite offers me even more than just a brief respite from man-made-ness. It embodies that freedom we grapple with as women, as humans—an intermission (or complete break) from our ‘perceived’ self.
And if Yosemite isn’t your thing, you can trot into a wooded park, take a walk on the beach or a paddle on your local lake for a respite from contrived human messaging. The external voices and media white noise, that work so hard daily to slant our perception of who we should be or what we should look like, are non-existent while in natures womb. Wilderness has an indifferent way of allowing for us to shape and mold our authentic view of self and to support us in getting that there is no such thing as should. It offers the knowing that who we perceive ourselves to be in civilization isn’t really who we are—we are so much bigger than that box we place ourselves in. The mountains, trees, or oceans don’t care what size pants we wear, or whether our dreams are valid to someone else. They just allow, while offering a blank slate on which to paint our most innately connected self.
For my lifetime, the unique waves of granite carved out of ice, wind and water, rolling out for miles in Yosemite high country, have offered a blanket, surrounding whichever vision of me I hold true in the moment. So the thought of soon being in that supportive majesty had me feeling heightened glee. Yet again.
Bypassing the valley with its confused negotiation of the stunning granite walls, juxtaposed to the thousands of bodies in vehicles gawking at them, we headed directly to the high country, carrying what we might need for a few days on our backs. Early season would ensure that we had snow, chilly nights and few to no people to contend with. And the broad and vast vistas of Yosemite would once again solidify that to be ensconced in wildness is to see clearly, without constraints or agendas. Wild places allow for an ease of self-knowing without being conscious of this knowing.
As I write this I sit on a patch of moss at the apex of Tuolumne Canyon, feet dangling in the icy river. Though my ankles ache with the cold I keep dipping them in. The pain affirms nature’s power over me—important information for a human in an unfettered space. A multi-tiered high and broad sloping precipice to my left supports thousands of tons of water in raging down its face, and for many moments I sit quietly in awe. Pondering raw, uninhibited power offers a reflection of how physically insignificant a human body is, side-by-side with how impactful our potent minds can be as they run our lives—for better and for worse. And that despite this ebb and flow of our self-view and our self-talk back in civilization, the water will continue to rage wildly and with abandon, in nature. A constant and affirming friend. A reminder that with diligent, yet unabashed roaming, the mind, like the water, can (will) generate a purpose that nurtures us. Mental sustenance. Wild places offer up the latitude to ponder that preserving such precious places is a vote for preserving our piece of mind. And they give us needed space to power down, unplug and press the reset button—as many times as we want (need). Here we can decide, at this moment, in this hour, what our dreams will offer us, or who we wish to be for our community, where ever we might hang. And that what we decide that looks like, today, in this moment, is always just perfect.