Two videos from early Christmas Day with crystal blue skies, strong wind, and below 0 temperatures.
Returning from an Alaskan retreat, I am different.
Nothing earth shattering and most likely not noticeable to most people I come into contact with.
Back home, the sky has not changed, the trees stand tall against the summer blue, and the grass is coarse from overdue rain.
Obligations, bills, demands, job – waited at the front door for the week to pass and my return.
Emails arrive in the overflowing inbox and the phone still rings.
Lines form at registers waiting for morning coffee.
But something is different.
I left here in a chaotic state, doubts of the pathway I built and have stayed on, despite the uncertainty. I was clinging to the next day or week, hoping that it will be different from today, that if I just hold-out, the answers and next direction will reveal themselves. I had become complacent and stagnant.
How many years was I going to relinquish control of my path to outside forces with unknown names and unfamiliar faces?
Something is different now that my feet are on the ground here. What happened up there in the Alaskan wilderness?
I walk to the backyard and stand on the cement patio with coffee. The morning sun rays begin to touch treetops and the golden glow is stark against the deep blue sky. But I do not see this and I do not hear the ravens playing in the fields beyond the hill.
Lost in some thought I cannot place, my eyes close and I am back in Alaska with a river stretching to the base of distant mountains. I am flying above glaciers and standing so close I can taste the cold. I am riding an ATV through forest and open fields until I stand overlooking the river valley and and lose myself to the silence, the beauty, and the immense landscape.
That is what I see now that I am back home. Now that I have returned from an Alaskan retreat, the burdens I left here with have been replaced with nature, tangible things I can see, touch, smell, taste. Things that will my mind and push everything else out. In return for this gift, I am more silent, thinking before I speak, and keeping more calm and control of myself as I attempt to cope with the present and push for a different future that I create.
When my mind becomes scattered,
when each of the thoughts I held
in my core is lost to the wind,
I seek out answers and resolutions
from the natural world.
On mornings when the grey sky
covers the sun and the forest
lives in its own green exterior,
the cold air lays upon the skin,
and you know that rain is near.
Each drop a fragment of some
larger being or existence beyond
this world and my body reacts to the cold
by reassembling the core and bringing
this being back into a whole form.
Edit of the previous posted here.
For now I am the winter
beneath the mask
revealed beneath the
cold water of the sea.
Eyes open to the sky
above the surface
breath held as snow begins.
Carried further into depths
away from the forming ice,
the sea floor echoes.
For now I am the winter
overtaking the autumn
slowing rivers and lakes
the graying sky swallows the sun.
Across the field a black swan
swoops low above
tall grass and sumac.
Winter’s presence everywhere
and nowhere as red wildflowers
disappear into white.
There is something dramatic and something many times larger than us. What surrounds and embraces us with reluctance because we are there within its midst.
The thrill of venturing into unknown and undiscovered lands, into unnamed glaciers, lakes with undisturbed shorelines, trails and elevations unknown to maps, lives within us. I desire to truly experience wilderness, the way the scene unfolded before God’s eyes and the final touch of a masterpiece, with unfettered air breathed when emerging from primitive shelters, built by hand from what the land offered and gave to them. Where does this experience lie in our time? Is there some far away land, hidden under tussocks fed by glacial streams, within a mountain’s shadow? Who or what holds this experience secret, and pristine? Does it even exist anymore? It might remain an elusive chase and game, an experience we live and die by in our dreams, the end game we pour our heart and soul into.
Why do we chase that experience so close to our fingertips, yet the feeling, the tingle, so elusive? What is encoded into our bodies and our DNA?
What is the most pure, and at the same time, most simple experience we as humans, can learn from? It is time spent alone, with your hands as survival tools, sustenance found while roaming the free land, water down the hill at the creek, ripe berries dangling in the morning sun reflecting dew, fallen trees and dried bush to make the evening’s fire.
The cold water lifted from the high-tide runs through the clenched fist. The eastern wind passes through the outstretched arms and fingertips. The ancient trees reach for the sky with entrenched roots that have withstood time, storms, and worse, human intervention. What all of these elements have in common is their resilience and ability to thrive without humans, and the unfortunate consequence of dying at our hands.
Who is to adopt and change in this sometimes toxic relationship?
Across an empty field scorched
with morning light I see
shadows dancing along the treeline
filling empty spaces.
Is this my field?
I remember little prior to this moment
as winter has settled across the land
and in the depth of winter
we retreat into the awareness of self.
I seek warmth from the shadows
emerging from the scorched field.