Standing on top of Silar Bald, I look north and see for the first time the smoky blue of the mountains and know exactly why they are called the Smoky Mountains. There is nothing around but the blue sky and mountains, my hiking partner and me. South, I can see the tops of mountains which over the last 8 days we’d traversed. Seeing them from this vantage point was illuminating. Their spines jutted into the skies and for the first time, I realized what we’d done. It is a moment of personal triumph and awareness. I burst into tears. Like a waterfall they cascade down my face…I speak words but they make no sense. My bemused hiking partner has no idea why I am crying so hard or what to say. So, she stands, waiting. Finally, I get out that I have never felt so strong, so in control or so powerful. I explain that here, standing here, I feel more like myself than ever before. I speak the words, “All that bullshit that happens in the real world, all the work pettiness, the family drama, the marital issues…all of that is NOT who I am. Here on this mountain with everything I need right here on my back…this is me, this is who I was meant to be. All of that ‘stuff’ doesn’t matter.”
And so, it has remained since that time.
I have always been an outdoor, rugged kind of girl. Spending hours in the yard looking at bugs, walking barefoot in the yard, playing baseball and catching tadpoles were the things that took up my time as a child. Through Girl Scouting, I learned to camp, make fire and live. It felt like home being in a tent in the wilderness. But, I grew up, went to college, met someone, got married, had kids. Life showed up with its stressors and hormonal issues and anger. It was normal to feel upset when you had all this happening at the same time, right? Back then doctors dismissed these things as woman’s problems and I was just told to deal with it. My family suffered, I suffered.
My children grew up. I divorced and moved away. I found my dream job. Self-care led me to backpacking, photography and writing. I spent a summer as a naturalist, mediation outside was wonderful and gradually as age crept through my bones and skin, I became calm. Was it just age and the lessening of hormones, was it growing awareness and acceptance of ‘the way of things’ or was it the influence of standing on mountains, meeting a bear suddenly on a trail or watching the northern lights flicker across a beautiful lake? Was it the slow dawning realization that life is and I am part of it, part of the wheel and nothing more. Gaia or mother earth, nature showed me her secrets and I listened and grew strong.
So, maybe next time when you are feeling the stresses of life weighing you down you might consider taking off your shoes and socks. Let the grass wiggle its way up and down your ‘tickle spot’ on the bottom of your feet, laugh out loud, stand with your spine against a tree, preferably a pine, bare feet planted in the soil next to its roots and breath. Breath in the pine scented air, feel the needles brush your face as the soft breeze moves slowly through the branches, feel the life force of the earth pulse against the souls of your feet just waiting for you to invite it up into your body. If you do this, you too might find a peace which will support and nurture you. Possibly, you may even find your wild self. What is holding you back, keeping you from following that ancient call to walk in the woods? Follow that yearning and find your path.
-Vera Hurst aka “Missing Kink”
This article is part of our #hikeOctober campaign to shed light on the stigma of mental illness and to promote the benefits of hiking. 100% of the funds raised from this campaign will be dedicated to alleviating the suffering of mental illness and to wilderness trail conservancy. If you would like to learn more or add you voice to our I #hikeOctober… series, please contact us.