From Stranger to Guest to Family Member
When many people first head out into the wilderness, they feel like a stranger in a strange land. Out of their comfort zone. Odd sounds, weird smells, too hot, too cold, too wet, too much. The first time may prove to be the last.
For those that persevere – and in so doing learn to accept the natural world on its own terms – a transformation can take place. Slowly but surely one becomes accustomed to the conditions that hitherto had been the catalyst of fear and anxiety. As experience accumulates, worries and doubts begin to fade. And with this heightened sense of connection comes a magnified feeling of responsibility, an unwritten duty of care with Mother Nature. Spending time out in the woods goes from being an occasional footnote to a fundamental part of your life. The stranger has evolved into a regular guest.
In the third and final stage of this natural progression, the guest becomes a family member. Regardless of season or environment, a sense of belonging permeates your outdoor excursions. From a tangible perspective, wildlife seems less skittish in your presence (or you in theirs) and navigating obstacles such as river fords, desert crossings, and snowbound terrain becomes a matter of course. No drama, no need to second guess; you know what needs to be done and you do it. That’s not to say that you never make mistakes, but it does mean that when errors invariably happen, you look at them as learning experiences, rather than negatives or reasons not to return. From an intangible perspective, feelings of separation have disappeared, replaced instead by a sense of union with your surroundings.
You have come home, and in so doing have realized that your spirit never really left. Our connection with the natural world is innate. So while it may seem like Mother Nature is teaching, I’ve long suspected she is simply sending us reminders – providing the key so that we can unlock a part of ourselves that has always been there.