In the summer, Pacer and I are always coming and going: off to the mountains, returning to Boulder. My camping bin stays permanently in my car. When I decide to go, I pack my clothes, food, grab Pace, and GO.
When i write it like that, I sound like a true wanderlust gypsy. The real truth is though, I’m not the romanticized traveler that leaves in the spur of the moment. A lot of things are planned out ahead of time, especially the food. I make sure I take at least a few days worth of healthy, wholesome plant-based meals with me. Clothes goes by a bit quicker, especially later in the season, though some thought goes into the necessary layers.
As for the actual leaving of the city, I typically leave an hour later than planned. When I finally do get into my car, it’s never without a bit of fear, albeit a lot of it has to do with my 2002 Subaru not breaking down on the way their. Then, there is getting lost, weather, and not knowing what expect. There’s leaving safety and comfort behind. A warm bed and locked doors. Wifi. Daily showers. Shelter.
Last, ther is saying goodbye. It is a blessing and a curse to have someone to miss. I’ve never been great at goodbyes to loved ones, no matter how temporary it is. My throat constricts, a heaviness fills my heart, and the sadness lingers in me as I drive away. The brunt of it slowly dissipates with the miles.
Things start to change when I reach the mountains, when Pacer and I are long amongst the trees. Fresh air, the breath of Mother Nature, fills my lungs and helps fill any voids in my heart.
My nerves start to calm. I don’t have the lure of the computer to draw me in and keep me up at night, just a book and my journal.
While I still miss the ones I left behind, it’s easier for me to remember that I return after my adventure. The fear of the unknown turns into excitement. For now, the loneliness (in addition to Pacer) is another companion.
Back in the arms of Mother Nature, her embrace feels like a source of security. I know she’ll never leave me, though in the hustle and bustle of the city I all too often forget she is there. In the mountains, I remember. I set up my tent, Pacer and I snuggle in, and I am home.
Going back to the city (even though it is Boulder) is a different story.
At the beginning of the summer, for me it was like the umbilical cord attaching me to my Mother was being ripped off. Again I was lost.
Funny, because the day before I leave, I’m always looking forward to a hot shower, cooking with an normal stove (though I do love my Jetboil), and a cushy bed. But then, as I leave the mountains, watching them get smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, the choking sadness of goodbye comes back. I’m leaving my loved ones, the high snowy peaks, the valleys of wildflowers, the music of the trees, behind.
When I get back to my “space” in Boulder, I dread the emails that await me, the drive down the street to the grocery store, the flood of constant noise.
This is what I call “society adjustment disorder“. I first learned of it after hiking the Colorado Trail in 2015 and briefly broached the subject in my blog:
“In the 30 or so hours after completing the CT, I am fully immersed, but feeling quite awkward and separate, in normal society.
I’ve already experienced over-priced motel rooms (though the shower was greatly appreciated!) and food, cigarette smoke, dining partners getting ignored over cell phones, and drives going too fast and swearing down the road despite the background of majestic mountains. After seeing Steve [my then-boyfriend], he quickly updated me on the big news I missed in the world- reporters getting shot, another child rapist, wild fires around the country.
This is what I wanted to come back to?”
If I’m not careful, it’s easy to get depressed, lost in thoughts of why humans have created things to be so complicated, losing the joy of simplicity.
The blow of society is softened by having someone to come back to, a lover to embrace and let me know I was missed.
Still, I am careful not to let the bliss of re-uniting bypass the wisdom that I know underlies the sadness of my return back to society. There is something in that sadness that I have to learn from, though I’m can just grasp the meaning now.*
What I do know is this: While I may drive away from the heart of the wilderness, Mother Nature never truly leaves me, for our hearts are intertwined. Second, the sadness I feel when leaving the mountains is the same sadness I feel when leaving a loved one. They are really 1 of the same, with love at its’ roots. I also know it is up to me to seek beauty elsewhere, not just in finding it in the foothill trails of Boulder or the trees that line the littered block. No, the beauty that I seek can only be uncovered in the hearts of the people I pass by. It is often not as apparent as the beauty I’ve found in the valley of wildflowers, just above tree-line, and mountain lakes, but it is just as deep, just as pure.
Within a few days back in the city, I’m back to my normal routine and my withdrawal symptoms fade. I find happiness in my morning runs and a re-connection with other human beings as well as the nature around me. The mountains still call, and I know I will go again. For the time being though, the wilderness and love in my heart and in the hearts of those I walk past (even if they can’t see it for themselves) keeps me hanging around a bit longer.
*Not to go too far off topic, but I also have a theory on this. If you know psychology, you’ve probably heard of “attachment theory”. Basically, it describes how our early attachments affect our attachments later in life. Most of use have grown up with a severed attachment to Mother Nature, but if we are lucky enough to find it as adults, we can begin to heal. I think are natural (no pun intended) connection to Mother Nature is so strong that when we leave, we feel the pain of once again separating from our Mother.