I do this thing every once in a while. It’s kind of a therapeutic forget-about-what-is-bothering-me-type-thing. I’ll get to that.
There’s something about solitude and isolation that is vital to who I am. As much as I enjoy being around people, I value my time alone more. I like to reflect on who I am. Or who I think I am. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m consciously thinking about that, it’s just a realization that comes when I look back on my time in seclusion. Being unattended, uninterrupted, and absent from the influence of others allows me to think on another level. Not like a “look at me on my high-horse” level, but like a “I’m thinking clearly and for myself” level. I see things more for what they are. I think my learning and personal advancement relies on this. All throughout school, elementary through college, my best work was done individually. It’s not that I can’t work in groups—I love working as part of a team, it’s part of being an adult. There is just a significant difference exhibited in the quality of work and the quality of thought produced when it is done on my own. I feel more attached, involved, and committed to projects and concepts. For me to reach my fullest potential in anything, I know that there has to be help along the way, but I have to have a sound understanding of self in order to achieve any kind of success—even in the trivial. Maybe I’m just more introspective than others. I find it hard to grow as a person when there is so much outside perspective. I don’t know how many times in my life my gut has told me to do one thing and those around me do or tell me to do another, so I concede, only for me to later wish I would have followed my gut to begin with. I appreciate the criticism and the advice I am given, it shows that people care, but there have been so many times I have come out on the losing end, at least personally, because I didn’t follow my gut. I hate that. I hate that for so many reasons. It’s such an internal conflict. It’s weakness; I see it as not being strong enough in my personal confidence to do what I want. But conversely, I don’t want to disenchant the people who choose to support me.
That took a turn I didn’t intend for it to take. I’ll cut it off before it burrows.
Nature. Nature’s neat, right? Let’s talk about that. Nature is so essential to my well-being. I could never live in a big city; even where I live now gets to me sometimes. I love being in the remoteness of wilderness or on some high peak far from everything. However, life doesn’t always allow you the flexibility you want (at least not yet), so you have to compromise. I am fortunate enough to live in a state where beauty is around every corner. Mountains, valleys, canyons, dunes, plains; all for the taking and all so distinctive. My compromise is found in the nearby forests.
I often think about the forest. Not necessarily a particular forest, just what a forest is. I know it’s a patch of land with a dense population of trees. I know it’s a resource. I understand its ecological functions. What I’m beginning to understand are the messages the forest offers. Bear with me. John Muir once said “the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” I relate to this guy. Not because he #livedauthentic, wore leather boots, and had a canvas backpack, but because he was a man who embraced the intrinsic qualities of the world around him, allowing it to shape his worldview and character. He saw what I am slowly beginning to see in regard to the forest.
A forest is a collective of trees, each similar but unique. Some are copies of an original, growing in close quarters, others are more sparse. They begin as saplings; some die off young, others grow tall and old. Some are torn down by their surroundings, either naturally or deliberately. Some are more resilient than others. Some provide shelter, others provide detriment. Re-reading this, it sounds like I am referring to the trees as people and the forest as a population. The metaphor I see is that not of people, but of opportunities. Recently, I’ve spent a great deal of time in retrospect. I have been wondering about my place in the universe and all of the different paths I could be on right now, had I chosen differently. But then I got to thinking about the forest. When forests are burned, they do not go away. Burning does not change the fact that a forest is still a forest. They remain, changed from before, but still present. With wildfire comes new growth as the years advance. That concept hit me and brought so much of my doubt and mistrust into focus.
So back to the first sentence. I do this thing. I walk alone, somewhere secluded, and I just let my mind wander. I think about life, people, nothing. It’s so rare, but it’s so calming to have nothing on my mind. I hear and feel the breeze. I’ll stop and sit sometimes, too, and just look around. It’s such a simple, reviving thing, but sometimes it’s so hard to do. Sometimes I talk things out to myself. I probably look like a lunatic, but it’s what works. It’s repairing.
I don’t usually bring my camera with me when I do this because it distracts me from the experience, but on occasion I do. These are photos I took while in Black Forest the other day as all of this ran through my head.
© Jordan Poole Photography