Tuesday, April 6, 2010

wilderness and honesty

So an ex-boyfriend of mine just wrote me a long, self-absolving letter about the implosion of our relationship, leaving me to wonder if we really were in the same relationship at all. A lack of self-awareness is something I always wonder about. How do these people function in life as they stumble along rewriting events to make them appear paragons? But because I don't intend to dwell in negativity and because I relate everything to wilderness, this got me thinking.

If people spent more time in the woods, would they be better people? This certainly is the premise of the "wilderness therapy" schools. While I have my doubts about the success rate, I do admit that being out in a sometimes harsh environment and having to rely on your skills to survive can bring out the best in people. How is sitting at a desk going to make you self-reliant, tolerant and flexible? My time in wilderness has done all these things for me (though some would argue with the tolerant part).

Would my explosive co-worker be happier if all s/he had to do was find a good tent spot, filter water and hang a bear bag? Would my ex spend less time navel-gazing and agonizing and be able to be clearer about what he wanted in life if he spent a season just hiking? Many who spend an extended time in the woods--Appalachian Trail hikers for example--seem to come away calmer, having made big life decisions.

Personally I think we need the wilderness to calm us down, reduce us to what is important, to let useless worries drift away. Frankly I would rather worry about a bear than some of the manufactured crises I see at work.

I know my wilderness trips make me a better person. I guess I can only speak for myself. Maybe other people get this same feeling different ways. For me, it works. And it is always an interesting theory to throw out there.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree. We lose who we are when we are not in our natural environments (outside). Spending time in a place where you have control over very little breeds peace. We really have very little control over anything but somehow we kid ourselves unless we are confronted by things like weather and steep climbs.

    What do you think of the idea of wilderness? I think people like to know it's out there, even if they never visit it.

  2. I remember a moment someplace along day 5 or 6 of my Coast to Coast hike across England, sitting in a sheep meadow, miles from any road, patching my blisters and eating a cheese sandwich, and realizing that I wasn't even sure what day it was - that all my concerns, food, warmth, sunburn, were all I had, all that was in my mind. And I remember how happy that moment was, how clear and intense and calm. How anyone can even live without those moments is beyond me.


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