There is something profound that happens when my mind is set free while wandering. The rustling of the leaves in the wind, the sound of the singing birds, and the movement of my body carries me to a spiritual place. It is a place where I feel a connection to something larger than myself. It’s almost holy. It is a place where I can ask myself what it is that I need and I am given the space to seek and listen for the answer.
This is why I hike.
John Muir, an early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States did not like the word hike.
“I don’t like either the word hike or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!’ Do you know the origin of that word, saunter? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
The above quote genuinely resonates with me and it has influenced me in forming my outdoors-women identity. Harmony is discovered when I allow myself to slow down and trust nature to guide me.
While I was hiking to Tilson Lake a few weekends ago with my family, my mind trailed off and I thought about the first few years of my daughter’s life and one particular moment that I have felt guilty about. I don’t know why this one moment, among all the others has stayed confined to my memory.
She was 7 or 8 months old and wearing a yellow button-up footed onsie with a giraffe print. She laid in her crib crying and I was alone. I scooped her up and carried her at my hip like a sack of potatoes, stomping my feet on the ground, through the dining room and into the kitchen. I was frustrated, defeated, lost, and broken. I harshly crammed a bottle into her little mouth and awaited silence.
I had no idea what I was doing when my baby was born. I didn’t even know that swaddling was a thing and it was my husband who taught me about it. Truth be told, my baby was actually a very good baby who slept through the night early on. I had my own mental health issues going on combined with likely [undiagnosed] Baby Blues and / or Postpartum depression.
I knew that I needed someone to talk to and I saw a counsellor for much of my daughters first year of life. She was British and I enjoyed learning about the style of parenting on that side of the pond. Other issues eventually compounded other issues and I returned to see her but she didn’t meet my needs anymore. Not all counsellors and therapists match a clients needs.
Patience for others has never been an asset of mine and all these years, I have held onto the shame of loosing my shit when my baby was just being a baby. That particular memory is one that I often thought about but didn’t know what to do with it.
Until Tilson Lake. I forgave myself. I felt the darkness of shame leave my core. The heartache that I carried faded away. I felt lighter after forgiving myself. The pressure of holding a memory I did not like was released. I felt a gentle ease come over me and I gave thanks to the universe.
This is why I hike. This is why I hike first and foremost for my mental health.
While I was laying in bed writing this, my daughter came into my room, unable to sleep. She had been in and out of her room throughout the evening. I snuggled her next to me and guided her through a calming visualization of her happy place. A swing, waterfall, birds, and rainbows. When it was time for her to go back to her room, I told her to continue visualizing her happy place until she fell asleep. On her way out, she turned back to me and said, “thank you, mom.”
I have learned so much from my time spent with nature.