Finding Clarity and Perspective in the Wilderness

Castle Rock San Rafael WildernessCastle Rock, San Rafael Wilderness

Concerns in the wilderness revolve around basic necessities not luxuries. Removal from the busy, overstocked urban realm and immersion in the sparse serenity of pristine nature reduces life to an elemental state. Such experience trims the fat removing excess and in that leanness is found clarity and perspective.

Minimality transforms outlook and attitude. Things are the same but subtly different, as if a ray of light cast from a new angle has illuminated life in a way that reveals its previously unseen characteristics.  The common and ordinary take on greater value or perhaps it’s that their true worth is better revealed.

camp graffitoIt is a less sophisticated slower-paced life in the wilderness, where boiling creek water to brew a spoon full of coffee or cook a handful of pasta can be a remarkably pleasurable experience, nearly an end in itself.

At home, caught up in the busy business of urban domestic life, cooking, while one of my favorite activities, can feel like a burdensome chore I just want to complete in order to quickly move on to the next task. Sometimes I wish there was a pill to satisfy hunger like aspirin relieves a headache.

At home I carelessly shovel heaping amounts of fanciful food from an overflowing cornucopia and guzzle a seemingly limitless variety or drinks from a bottomless well, a glutton assuming the never ending supply of endless choices will always be there when and where I demand it.

When in the woods, on the other hand, with only a small quantity of basic provisions, I relish each little bit as though it’s a pinch of a rare treasured commodity selected from a limited cache and held carefully in cupped hands.

Few victuals have ever been more enjoyed and appreciated as much as those simple meals I’ve eaten from a plain metal dish, on a dusty and battered old picnic table or atop my lap, around a flickering campfire out in the backcountry. In the wilderness I come to better appreciate so much of what I routinely take for granted while in the city. And I realize how little is needed to be happy.

Santa Ynez Mountains Los Padres National Forest hikingWandering off-trail in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

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4 Responses to Finding Clarity and Perspective in the Wilderness

  1. TrailJunky says:

    No better way to find out how little you need to enjoy life then in the wilderness, on a trail, with everything you need to sustain yourself in a pack on your back!

  2. “Minimality transforms outlook and attitude.” I especially love this line. Nature is so amazing to me and it really is the simplicity of it that makes it so.
    Wonderful post! 🙂

  3. Nicely said. More than the experience of any one specific place, it’s this that I wish more people were able to access.

  4. Forrest says:

    This is an excellent post. Very insightful, and well written; it describes one of the core reasons so many people visit the wilderness. There’s very little else to say.

    This summer I hiked across North Cascades National Park. I carried an orange for two days, over a high mountain pass surrounded by glaciers and bare rocky peaks, down into a river valley, and into a thickening forest. Finally, after setting up my second camp of the trip and not having seen another person for most of a day, I sat on the shore of the Stehekin River and had the sweetest fruit I’ve ever tasted. I’ve always loved oranges, but I’m lazy enough to get slightly annoyed at having to peel them at home; alone in an immense wilderness, sitting by the riverside, it was a meditation, and a prelude to deliciousness.

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