Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Backpacking Does for the Soul

Despite a few initial setbacks such as pouring rain and cold temperatures, we finally headed down to Zaleski in Wayne National Forest to trek across hilly, woody terrain and camp out for two nights. It was the most magnificent experience. For the first time in a long while, I was able to think about nothing at all. I had taken care of any urgent errands and plans before leaving, so for the entire trip, I was free to blissfully take in the scenery with "reality" figuratively a thousand miles away.

We napped in the middle of the day in a hammock, the breeze gently blowing and the sun shining warmly my face.

We enjoyed each other's company and the company of the trees around us and the moths fluttering through our legs.

We ate simply. Drank pure refreshing water. Walked through narrow trails and muddy pits. Gazed upon a lake that surprised us over the incline. Stood on the edge of a cliff. Marveled at the blooming leaves, flowers, and ferns. Slept huddled against the cold. Roasted marshmallows over the fire. Grew awestruck at the millions of stars twinkling above. 

Found ourselves again.

The trip sent us back to basics. What is it that we truly need to be content with life? It's an exercise in discovering our santosha, contentment and satisfaction with our situation, and of course that  willingness to take risks. A soft bed with insulation against the cold is nice, but sleep is the key. Television shows and Facebook updates can be entertaining, but we truly need little more than the pulse of our footsteps along a dirt-covered path. 

We spend most of our lives sheltering ourselves from the great nature outside, but that's where our real self dwells. Floating through the wind and resting on the leaves of the trees, shimmering on the surface of the brook, and tumbling around with butterflies.

Coming back home made me feel like the reality was the dream. We're mindlessly look at computer screens and buying pre-made bread. Today, I worked my fingers through the pillowy mounds of pizza dough, gazing out the window wishing I could tear down the walls and make my vegetable stock and bread outside, where I really belong. I drive to work, watching billboard ads and stressed out people go by, and I feel out of place. I make money. Money for what? To invest in a society that is consciously driving itself away from our true place? 

I might be of the few who feel this way; yearning to go back to the real life and escape this dream, while most others view the trek through the woods as the dreamy distraction from real life. Whatever it is, I cling to the memories of my experience to preserve my soul and santosha as I live here and now. Images credit: J.J. Bechhold

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