Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living in the WIlderness

A friend from my distant past has been asking me questions about my life. I mention I live in the wilderness but this somehow is not the most motivating topic. I wonder if this is because it is difficult for any who have not lived in wilderness to know what that might mean. I'm not sure I know what it means and I have lived in the middle of it for thirteen years. My son is an environmental studies major. I get the influence of the wilderness in schooling decision. He is out working in the forest as I write about it now. Thinning. Helps the trees left behind grow larger and reduces fire danger. He tells me that few of his classmates have ever been in the wilds except for perhaps day hikes or camping. He feels the differences in their experiences compared to his own, growing up here.
I spent much of the summer away from this wild place. Months away. Long enough that the callouses softened in my hands. Long enough that I had few bruises or scrapes and no poison oak. Long enough that it takes me a week before I am able to once again walk out into the wilds on my own. I return to the wilderness and I mow the lawn. This is not the usual experience for wilderness living. It is certainly a relic from the life of suburbia. However the lush green of the lawns serves as a fire break from the dry dusty forest surrounding this small oasis.
I was out earlier in the day to help with the thinning. Hiking a mile to get to the site. Climbing up and down slopes, pulling downed limbs and small trees to piles where they will be burned later in the year once the rains have come. Loading into the truck rounds of wet oak to be stored for next years use. A little more dry madrone for me to use this year. I rely on wood for heat. The attempts to work around the fir trees that Travis fell are met with strong resistance from the wasps that have taken up residence in a rotting branch. First Eric and then Travis are stung. We apply mud to draw out the venom and move to another place in the forest to work. Some days go easily. This day is all about the obstacle and the slow cautious work. This work always invites caution. Think about chainsaw blades and crushing trees. But some times the trees just do not fall so easily and more time is needed to get them onto the ground. I slow my work as the ground crew pulling brush to watch the chainsaw work. Chainsaw work  requires the help of others with more muscles than I have. I do love to get out into the middle of the forest and work hard with others and sweat. When I do this the cares and worries of a life connected to computers and telephones and the news which is not always so edifying or confusions within relationships..all of this eventually falls away while I do the work that is not about the big brain. It is not necessary to understand much in order to create a pile of brush. The creation of these piles moves me from my mind, which is going and going, into my body which is grateful for the exercise.
I know that people who do not live in the wilds exercise and know the magic of movement. Wilderness is not necessary for this to occur. What wilderness gives me as I exercise is a place to allow all thoughts to be dissipated. I feel that the earth is able, somehow in ways that I do not really understand, to absorb my emotions and turn them into something softer. Touching wood. Walking in the soft duff. The scent of freshly cut wood. The heat of the summer day as it warms the forest and trees release their rich fragrance. All of this is part of the forest life I have come to love.
I offer to walk back to the house and refill the water bottles. I notice a tree fallen neatly across a small stream bed and I balance myself to walk across this bridge. Stepping over logs, working my way through the tall grasses, noticing how an oak and a madrone have grown together over a long period of time. This is one of the fruits of the life. Near the house I take a few minutes to move sprinklers around, check e-mail and refill the water. I follow a new path back to the work area. Shoes crunch in the crispy carpet of yellow madrone leaves. The oaks are ready with a new crop of acorns. What relevance this has to a life lived in suburbia is unfathomable really.  This is my neighborhood now. This home which supports deer, turkey, bear (big scat full of berries found yesterday), mountain lion and me continually surprises and challenges. 

1 comment:

  1. What an enjoyable description of the wonderful balance gifted to you by your wilderness experience. Scary sometimes, but so elemental. Grounding. Essential. Creative. I smell the fresh air and hear the buzz of insects in the bushes.