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Winter: What I've Learned So Far

After 12 weeks on the road traveling alone mostly through the winter months, I’ve had a great deal of time to reflect on my life and life in general. This trip has so many layers to it that it could take a long period of time for me to fully express and integrate everything I’ve experienced.

I’ve learned over these weeks that life had worn me down to the point where I had lost a joy for living and was just going through the motions. I was resilient, so I would never give up on life, but I was feeling numb before I left. I had made a lot of mistakes along the way during the 55 years I had traveled the earth and I judged myself harshly for my role in them. I did the best I could with the skills I brought to the table, but I failed on so many occasions.

Spending extensive time in nature, I am finally able to let go of so much of the sorrow, anger and regret of my life. This rewilding journey is taking me back to the roots of me, before all of the loss, the grief and the errors in judgment.

I’m just starting to recognize that little girl again who felt fully alive in the snow under the trees in the woods behind her house in suburban New Jersey. I had glimpses of her early on, but she is fully coming to life now. She wants to give and receive love from friends and family. She is a creative personality who loves to dance and sing and to bring joy and healing to others. She sees beauty in the landscape and feels at peace and aligned with her spirituality when she is in the natural world, including a deep connection to the soul of her son, parents and all of her ancestors. She is feeling whole again, not fractured by the brokenness of the world and the brokenness of her own spirit.

I have been so hard on myself and others. The perfectionist way of life that I learned as a child is unforgiving. But forgiveness can light the way forward. You can’t wait for others to change or to forgive you or to love you. Forgiving them and forgiving yourself is the only way out of the pain.

Witnessing the remnants of wildfires in California, drought in the southwest and mangrove forests destroyed from hurricanes has shown me the resilience of the natural world and I am learning from its steadiness and regrowth. The earth is hurting in so many ways, crying out for its protection and a sustainable way of living. Can I too find a way to heal and live my life going forward that is sustainable and will allow me to flourish?

I’m starting to more fully understand the possibility of what it could mean to become a full nester after the children are grown. This first quarter on the road has helped me abandon the nest as well. I have taken apart all of the pieces of the structure and examined each one. I have a blank slate now and am looking at the foundation to see what calls to me as I start over. I know now that it’s never too late to reflect on our lives and begin again.

We can benefit from experiences in the wilderness to recapture who we once were before we became girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and employees. I see the benefits of reflecting on a new vision of our lives, particularly for women who spend their lives working, while still carrying

more of the load at home for childcare and housework.

While I still have a lot to learn and will need to figure out how to bring my renewed connection to my younger self into the world when I return to Portland next year. For now, I’m letting the enjoyment and freedom of living each day to the fullest with the rising and setting sun continue to carve away at all of the experiences in my life that hardened my interior, to create a smoother surface that can propel me forward to the next stage of my life.

The wilderness is setting me free! And I am having the time of my life!


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