Even when my lungs burn up the trail and I remember how deeply out of shape I am, I put one boot in front of the other and remind myself that this is healing in so many ways. I know that my muscles are building, fat is melting, lung power increasing, and soul and mind are mending.
Nature has become my source for healing in so many ways.
In the same way I used to rely on my faith, I’ve found nature to be more real to me when I feel so alone in this world. A visual reminder that there has to be something greater out there. For nearly the entire hike, even when my body feels like it’s pulling me down, the beauty of the trail, the breath of the outdoor air, the vivid green of plant matter coming to life, steals me away from my burdens.
When I think back to my best moments in life, it is often those where I am surrounded by this wondrous beauty of the outdoors that I cherish the most. Camping with my family in our leaky green tent and then waking up to ride my bike around the campground or hike up the rocks of the hill. Playing in the creek behind our cabin with my brother and coming upon the wildlife of Northern PA. My road trip across the country with my girlfriend visiting monumental and inspiring National Parks along the way. A drive up the coast to Maine with a longtime friend enjoying the lap of the ocean. Walking out my basement apartment to see the beautiful Bitterroot range in Montana. Walking along the dirt and winded cliffs of Teddy Roosevelt NP. Throwing my line into the Atlantic Ocean at Assateague. Hiking in my county parks trying to allow myself to see the colors and feel the moment when I was being swallowed by grief. Hiking a 7 mile trail in the great Smokies with my longtime friend realizing how far I had come not only my grief, but my physical strength. Hiking up to the Appalachian trail with my now-husband from our campsite at a favorite NJ state park. Biking to Long’s Park from my city apartment to enjoy an outdoor concert. Training and then running a 5k through my city with a wonderful friend. And now? Wondering where my 12 mile goal went this year in order to walk a long, interrupted hike.
The rules, the challenges, they don’t always work for me. They often take me to the goal, or just short of it, and then leave me stranded there. No motivation to keep going. But the healing in nature has always brought me back-the core of finding myself along the trail and in the beauty, knowing that somehow we are connected with one another in a vast way.
That’s a motivation unlike anything else.