Wilderness homecoming -part 3

Part 3 in the series* , in which I acknowledge the multitudes and mysteries in the wilderness within and without.

Morning coffee. 

Raven wingbeats overhead. I don’t hear the noise of their flapping, as much as feel the vibration in my eardrums. (of course, I suppose that is what all sound is after all, but this is a soundless sound somehow, l feel it like I feel the beat of my heart). Vibration draws my eye upward as She appears and passes over me.  

Sunrise kisses the tawny with gold. Fish jumps, concentric circles expanding. Red squirrel chatters, announcing its presence or mine, I’m not certain. Whether paddling past or walking a trail, they chatter in our passing, forwarding the message perhaps to their cousins farther along in the direction we are traveling like a game of telephone. Always I respond with my own, ‘Yes, I am here, in your world’. Perhaps that is what they are also saying to me.  

It rained just a bit overnight. The earth is damp beneath me. The wind, which sang in the treetops its lullaby throughout my restful sleep, still rushes and gusts even in morning’s quiet. I hear it. I see it bending the tips of the spiring spruce, which are lining the top of the sheer granite cliff, though I can’t feel it here, tucked into this cove.  

There is movement even in the midst of stillness. Song in the midst of silence.  

Beaver swims to the edge of land, clambers ashore and disappears into the bush. Within moments, I  hear the sounds of his chewing. It sounds a bit like a woodpecker working to me and I wonder if at times I have mistaken one sound for another.  

The first day we paddled into the wilderness, my heart was so full of sound. We were retracing the path we had taken with my daughter and her partner the week before (this is our second trip into the backcountry. Our first week here, we were joined by them, companioned by their tireless enthusiasm and sense of adventure ) and I felt the strange mixture of missing the energy of their presence and welcoming stillness, unexpected sadness and relief occupying the same space in my heart.  It took some time for those feelings to quiet. By evening, the strong winds that had companioned our long first day’s paddling, and which had encouraged us to search for a place to make camp in a leeward bay, had calmed and the lake spread out before me was like glass…. though the tips of those spruce were still bowing and swaying.  I wanted stillness, but was I mistaking stillness for numbness? I wanted my feeling of sudden emptiness to be instantly filled. Flipping back in my journal to that first day, I see Wisdom speaking to me, whispering, ‘Stop pushing. Let the wilderness of this place meet the wilderness in you in its own rhythm and time.” 

Now I see that, like Walt Whitman, and like this wild place, ‘I contain multitudes’.  All of them present at once, none of them higher or lower.  My need for human connection, my need for solitude.  My gift for care taking, my need for self nurture.  My love of family, my longing for freedom.  I also know that upon my return to the bombardment of the, somehow-to-me, wilder world ‘out there’,  in the oft chaotic culture of family and concentric community, I will also experience these strange mixtures of feeling. And it is also likely that sometimes I mistake one sound for another. 

My eye is drawn now to the view. To the west, opening after opening invites my gaze. Like opening a door and finding another on the opposite wall, it draws me ever inward (or is it outward?). To the north the view of what I have named,  ‘the fjords’, reveals just their entrances, inviting my imagination and my longing for what remains hidden. I keep trying to ‘capture’ those fjords with my camera, but there is something of their essence that won’t be caught.  

 There is something about this particular landscape, these vistas, whether paddling or sitting, that both whispers and stirs my longing for More, that resonates with my desire to explore what remains hidden, to see and experience what opens out on the other side if I follow that trail, to feel the pull of those waters beneath me as I kneel in the boat. Sometimes I feel that restless longing in me moan to be met, like the moose behind our tent 2 nights ago.  

Philosopher and naturalist Walt McLaughlin, in a thin volume tucked into my pack recognizes this place within me. “The wilderness experience is so much like the mystical one that they might as well be considered the same. In both cases, the wanderer establishes a certain intimacy with something ineffable. In both cases, all matters are eventually reduced to a single burning question: How far am I willing to go?…. Those afflicted by this ‘long desire’ seek something else…. A desire reaching beyond words. Perhaps it is pure longing itself. Perhaps it is only the desire for absolute freedom, without a specific object in mind. No matter. The wild draws this feeling out of a seeker whether she realizes it or not” 

The wilderness outside meets the wilderness within.  I wander in its depths, uncertain where it is I am going, what it is I will find, but drawn evermore to Being here with it. This day, we have no destination in mind, but intend to explore, paddle west into that open invitation, turn north into that hidden passage, , poke around the edges of this hidden lake, where we are utterly alone, but not at all alone, to listen to what we will see, feel what we hear, and Be here with the multitudinous One.  

(*This entry was originally posted as a Prayernote for Oasis, a local to me contemplative prayer community, at their invitation. You can read my offering it in it’s original format by following this link For more of these exquisite Prayernotes, written and offered by their co-director, Glenn Mitchell, you can go directly to the Prayernote page by following this link)

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kidfriendlyyoga
    Oct 15, 2020 @ 11:15:07




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