On Wilderness and Wonder

Pine Trees

Last weekend I had the opportunity to camp outside for a couple days. I rather enjoy sleeping outside, under the stars, and waking with the sun. My husband and I stayed at a campground on Rend Lake, where it’s commonplace to see wildlife in and around your campsite. The location is surrounded by a forest and has a definite “back to nature” feel. During our stay we witnessed several deer, a beaver and a group of pheasants.

Since we were camping at a primitive campsite I embraced the opportunity for stillness and left my electronic gadgetry at home.  No laptop, no iPod, no cameras of any sort (the above photo is of the campsite, but was taken on last August’s trip).

I instead only brought a book and my journal for entertainment. While we didn’t have much time at the campsite as we were in the area for my sister’s wedding on Saturday, I did find some time for reflection. Mainly in the early morning hours as I watched the rising sun dance across the lake.

I have always been drawn to the water and it seems I’m at my most peaceful and inspired there.  While sitting in a chair one morning I practiced an exercise that writing guru Natalie Goldberg advocates. I observed my surroundings and tried to share what I saw and felt.

As I write this (by hand in my journal, which is a glorious indulgence in and of itself) I feel the breeze on my face, I hear the gentle lapping of water against a group of rocks, several boats chug by in the cove and the air is scented with the briefest hint of pine and I wonder, does life get any better? Sitting here I struggle as I am overcome by inspiration, yet feel too awestruck to describe it adequately.

Being out in the middle of nowhere like that, even for a short time, does more to recharge my batteries than a week in an expensive spa or resort ever could. I know that type of excursion–one without A/C or modern technology–isn’t everyone’s idea of paradise, or even a vacation.  For me it always makes me think “how can I bring this feeling home with me?” and I realize there is no way to bring it home.

My next thought is usually, “one day I’ll live somewhere like this, so I can be this relaxed and inspired every day of my life.” But during this trip the thought occurred to me that like most things-no matter how amazing they may be-the more we encounter something the less wonder-struck and grateful we are for it.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I lived somewhere that unique, eventually would it cease to be special and become mundane?

Even though it pains me to admit it, I think the answer is yes…because we’re restless creatures, but also no…because we crave wonder. We need variety, as we often prove throughout our lifetime. Humans live to compare and contrast. We love to chase the wild, and embrace the unknown we can only find in nature.

Since coming home I’ve tried to put my finger on the whole experience, but so far I feel as though every attempt I’ve made falls short. The closest I’ve come to finding a description that matches what I experienced out in the wilderness is not my own words.

I don’t think I can end this post with any words more powerful than those from one of the greatest nature writers of all time:

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods