Much to my bemusement, this week I have seen more of the the public lands surrounding this small rural community than in all the years since moving here in 2004. I mean, all this accessible beauty has surrounded me all this time, beginning just a mile away, and I’ve explored very little of it. That doesn’t match the image I have of myself, or perhaps it is just different than the person I used to be.
I let fear keep me away from southeastern scorpions, drug runners, coyotes of the human kind who rape, mislead and rip off migrants. Fear of javelinas mauling my dogs, mountain lions mauling me, and lone coyotes out presumably hunting during the day instead of with the pack at night.
In my 20s I had two motto’s of my own creation: “Turn the anger into energy” and “Refuse to fear!”
I used to solo camp all over the country. I refused to let fear limit my enjoyment of life, whether traversing an unlit parking lot by foot in San Francisco or climbing cliffs in the Rockies. The risks I took were always rewarded with amazing experiences and deepened courage.
Enter middle age, the expanding waistline, health mysteries that diminished leg muscles and ability to tolerate many interior environments, and a sudden lack of desire to travel.
I remember the day I lost my motivation to travel alone. I was on vacation in the White Mountains in New Hampshire in my early 30’s. I’d spent the previous night in an empty hostel in the company of clever and probably cute rodents who enjoyed sorting my gorp into piles. (I don’t know what kind of critter is that clever, but marmots live up there.)
Driving into a town, it hit me: I was lonely. I didn’t want to be doing this alone. So incredibly lonely.
The beauty and wonder and inspiration of exploring the natural world left me. I don’t think I ever returned to the White Mountains, even though that had been my regular vacation spot while working in the Boston area.
It is exhilarating to be in fresh air almost 24/7, and in sunshine all the day long. Already I feel better physically. No more moldy houses. No more enclosed spaces, but for the car. Rock on!