I will never grow tired of the smell of pine. To ride through towering trees and absorb lungfuls of cool air and sun-toasted pine bark is an experience that soothes my soul. I love the long, open roads that wind through pine filled mountains and pale green plains, past steep cliffs, billowing grass, and grazing deer.
There is something about being in solitude in nature, on and off the bike, that feels like coming home in a way. I’ve felt such peace in dismounting the bike, removing my shoes, and feeling the cool earth beneath my feet. My favorite nights on this trip are the ones spent beneath shadows of the trees with the stars blinking over my sleeping head. Breathing in the fragrance of soil and leaves feels like the coolest drink after years of being parched.
You notice a lot about movement when you spend time in stillness in the wilderness. If you’re patient enough to let the living things recover from the shock of intrusion, gradually you become a witness to gentle rustlings and patterns among the rocks and trees. The birds begin to call to each other, tip toeing and swooping between limbs and leaves, the grasshoppers zap the air in electric spurts of flight, curious ants approach your toes and pantlegs, and subtle movements in the tall grass hint towards animals scavenging for food.
The wind seems to be in constant dialogue with the grass and rattling shrubs, sometimes whispering, and sometimes howling through deep canyons and over water. I will never grow tired of the sound of the leaves and trees bending with the breeze. There is a feeling of being held in it all.
Sometimes I don’t know how to take it all in, how to be in these places and to let it sink in. It’s frustrating in a way, like being stuck in a glass bubble separated from the rest of life. It reminds me of my sister describing the intense hue of a red desert flower she saw. “It’s hard to take it in!” she said. “It’s like, how can I fully see and absorb this color red, it’s like it’s too deep for my senses!” It reminds me of those bathroom towels that feel so soft, but seem to repel beads of water instead of absorbing them.
I sat on a mountainside overlooking a view that none of my senses could fully take in. Below stretched miles and miles of red rocks and white cliffs, yellow canyons and brown valleys- the craziest colors and rock formations you can think of. I felt this craving in my soul to be able to somehow be a part of it, to merge with it, but I didn’t know why or how. I wondered if what I felt is what Buddhist monks meditate for, that feeling of interconnectedness, oneness. I could feel this longing in my heart to be deeply imbedded in where I was, to somehow see it more clearly or feel it more intensely- but more than just through the senses.
The longing can hardly be captured in words or in a photo. There is something I feel in my core, deeper than in my cells, deeper than in my blood and bones. Where does this feeling live? This feeling like I want to cry or scream or howl my way into connection with everything? It’s so hard to explain.
I sat chest high in the golden-green grass for a long time, watching the sun set beyond the canyons miles below. The sky was so vast, a swirling mixture of blues and whites mixing with the rising wind. I watched a hawk ride the currents as she observed the world below, and I tried to imagine what it would be like to have her wings. I closed my eyes and in my mind I flew, just beneath the clouds, along cliff edges, diving down to the water then shooting back up to the sky.
The shrubs and wild vegetation gently bowed toward the valley below, whispering in anticipation of the coming darkness. I thought of what lived below my legs, perhaps thousands of miles of intertwined roots housing insects and animals and billions of organisms invisible to the naked eye. A white star twinkled above, then another, until the darkness of space unveiled a glittery mess of trillions of stars and planets and galaxies orbiting unimaginable distances away.
To my left I saw the silhouettes of grazing cows. I couldn’t see any enclosures in sight and I thought, “How amazing it would be to be one of those cows,” a thought that had never occured to me before. I watched them grind their jaws from side to side, peacefully standing on their mountainside surrounded by tall, shimmering birches and the open abyss below. “If I could be any cow in the world,” I thought, “I would be one of those cows.”
The longing in my heart made me wonder if all people experience this here, or if each human being has a different place in the world that feels like home to the soul. In my heart I felt that even to be a bent blade of grass beneath these trees would put my spirit at ease. To watch the the days come and go, to witness the wild things pass, to be landed on by bugs, to watch lizards bask on rocks, to feel the cool drops of rain, to be burried in the snow, to be stomped on, eaten, and returned to the earth and regrown, that was what I felt I wanted. It felt as if the only way to take everything in was to simply disintegrate with it.
The day that my cells decide that this human formation called Kristin has come to an end, the day they begin to disassemble and my atoms move on to be apart of new plants and insects, I feel like I want my body to rest in a place like this. I want to be in a place in the wild where I can dissolve into the earth and the sky. I don’t know how else to describe this new feeling of aliveness, and subtle sadness, but I guess that’ll have to do for now.