I heard a friend recently say, “I need to get out to the woods,” as if he were saying “I need to escape from this cage.” Well said, my friend. My sister is the same way about the ocean. I feel the same way about any remote environment, the less people, the more trees and water, the better. Someplace where no one feels entitled to judge me, to rank me, to decide where my place is in this life. But at the same time, an environment where I’m humbled. The size and endurance of the landscape reveals my true value and place, without judgment or consideration, without evaluation, by merely being there and existing, greater, more important and more lasting than I’ll ever be. The forest humbles me but inspires a sense of relief at the same time. My responsibilities are reduced to breathing, moving, surviving. I’m the only unwild thing in the wilderness. My very not belonging forces me to simplify my actions and thoughts to adapt.
Sometimes I go to the beach after everyone else has gone home, or when it’s cold or rainy. Same with the park. I like to look around and see nothing but what has tumbled or grown there: rocks, hills, mountains, brush, trees, rivers, lakes and oceans, sometimes the gift of a curious coyote or a fleeing deer. I don’t want to say hello or have a conversation. I want to walk, look around and breathe. I’m not any more or less important than what surrounds me. Until I return to civilization.