Alone in the Woods


Looking through photos of my summer, I see moment after moment of pure joy. Me grinning at the rim of the Rio Grande gorge. Me standing on a tree stump with my arms spread wide, Costilla Peak far behind me, bursting from the New Mexico soil. Me snuggled up and mugging for the camera with my boyfriend during a break on a rainy afternoon. My mouth wide open in surprise after my coworker unexpectedly latched himself onto my back. My camera managed to capture a meager fraction of my summer, but the joy contained in those moments overflows and fills my heart.

Today is like any other day in my life. There is worry, planning, stress, work, cooking food, cleaning dishes, routine, how will this fit into the schedule?, procrastination, solemn glances at the clock, self-punishment, unfocused thoughts buzzing around my head, and undedicated energy oozing from me in the form of thoughtless activity. This is like any other day in society. The crushing obligations, the inevitable disappointment, the deafening void of togetherness with others. It’s easy to get lost in daydreams of those long days in the backcountry, swathed in community and sun, the energy of freedom flowing fiercely through my veins. Back then, I wasn’t the worried, stressed, routined, solemn, unfocused, undedicated self that I am in the “real world”, the world of constant artificial stimulation, politics, schedules, cars, ignored text messages. It’s as if the world took the calm, joyous woman I was this summer and beat it into deformity.

But my summer mindset is still here in me, deep but not buried completely; its light shines out through the cracks of this brittle and fragile life I am being asked to lead. I remember how to have it.

I’m not content to sit idly by and watch the fat cells accumulate on my body, feel my stomach twist into an ever-permanent knot of tension, to let my teeth slowly be worn down through day after day of unconscious grinding, to let the insecurities run wild in my head.

I know these things as certain: I have a heart that beats and two legs to carry me, I am well-fed, I am healthy, and I have the love of a good man. If all else is lost, I have my dreams and my memories.

Now is the time, before the warmth in my heart dies with the leaves, to refocus and rededicate my energy on the pure matters of life. In the loneliness and isolation I feel here in Bloomington, over 500 miles from my partner and plunging headfirst into the depths of winter, there is the opportunity to grow into the person I naturally am, the calm, joyous woman who climbed mountains and ran rivers and became wild in the Rockies this summer. I was alone in the woods then, and I am alone in the woods now. If I wish to prosper then I must open my heart to be filled with this life, such as it is.

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Freelance human being.

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