“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories…water them with your blood and tears and your laughter ’till they bloom, ’till you yourself burst into bloom.”Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Many years ago, while growing up in my hometown in Puerto Rico, I had access to a good collection of National Geographic magazines. My dad used to own a subscription that lasted many years, adding to our family library a vast collection of visuals and information that fed my curiosity for discovery and wanderlust. Each year, during the summer months, the editorial geared towards the National Parks, in which they would showcase the amazing nature with their photography. My heart took note of how much excitement and possibility these landscapes brought me and my instincts kicked in. I knew I had been called into the wild unknown.
But in a world where you’re supposed to know who you want to be at 18, and where socially curated milestones measure success, how do you follow your bliss? How does one lean towards that which sparks your fire? Ideally, desire and action pair up at the crossroads. The happy coincidence of these two forces colliding on our path promises a most prosperous and joyful future. But it doesn’t always happen like that. Most of us have struggled at some point with bad decision-making, fear-driven action, and unfulfilled dreams. It is human nature to dwell on the things that could have been but weren’t, or the potential of other things that never take place.
Three months ago I went to Utah. I travelled alone and I must admit that it was challenging, but my heart was full with excitement. The wild came to my rescue and I went along with it. I drove wide and far across the desert, forests and mountains, always chasing the sunrise. I cried, laughed, and was delighted by everything and everyone I met along my trip. It was my private inauguration into following my childhood bliss.
In recent times, books like “Into the Wild” (by Jon Krakauer) or “Wild” (by Cheryl Strayed), both biographical accounts and made into successful movies, show how the main characters struggle with life and the way each of them face their own battles squarely out in nature. Could this be a new trendy idea encouraged by yet another socially acceptable behavior? Or could this be a genuine call for action in the direction of true soul search? I think it is a little bit of both.
It was Ralph Waldo Emmerson who wrote: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrow”. This classic piece of American literature is one that is studied and examined during school years, encouraging early on a deep connection to our natural surroundings. The acceptance that there is a bigger scheme constantly evolving liberates us from the burdens of daily struggles. This is something that is widely understood as a universal truth, even though it is forgotten as our modern urban lifestyle takes a life of its own and drags us along.
My trip took me to some of the most iconic National Parks: Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, and Arches. The constant buzz of my busy life was put to rest, and a sense of reverence and awe came to inhabit the center of my chest. In solitude I was left with my inner voice softly speaking back at me. It gently nudged me to take note of the conversations that I have with myself, of the places where pleasure or discomfort show up for me there. I took this journey inward seriously and with the utmost respect, since I was revisiting my own personal story. Remembering the path taken and how it has taken me this far.
In nature, this introspection takes on a different tone. We are given a wide space that puts in perspective how little we really are, and how most everything we face in life has a solution. Having the mountains as backdrop to these personal discoveries, we are given the comfort of a big, tight embrace while doing so. Listening to the river flow while pouring down our tears, we receive steady movement to do so in its entirety. When the sky is above us while dreaming up the dreams we are meant to embody, everything is possible. Nature heals us because it liberates us. Nature heals us because it reminds us of the cycles of a well lived life, where decay and death is followed by restoration and resurrection. Life continues being, and that is the promise we all have.
I returned back home full of gratitude for the experience. Contentment took its right place within my awareness and I can’t wait to embark again in this never-ending journey of self-discovery. There are 423 National Parks in the United States. I have 419 more to go.