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If a Tree Falls in the Woods, I'm just Glad I'm still Standing

The following writing is shared from the Road Trip Adventure 2007, reflections, writing, and added memories from the journal kept while on a 6-month-long road tripping, backpacking exploratory vision quest.


Late September, 2007 - Glacier National Park, Montana

I pulled the sleeping bag around me and the wind picked up. Each breath from the sky billowed down the mountain valley in colder sheets and the walls of my tent flapped and pushed with the growing pressure. Up the valley, toward the ridge line of mountains, the sound of thunder rumbled faintly. For a moment, old programming nervously whispering at the back of my neck. It was the voice of my mother, my teachers, weather forecasters warning, it’s going to be stormy, it’s time to come in.

But my body, mind, and heart spoke loudly: You are safe.

A smile played at my lips. I really did love thunderstorms and being on the road this long, in a tent nonetheless, which only reinforced the companionship that nature requested. To know her intimately, deeply, she requires an all-or-nothing relationship. Just like having a life-long love, an intimate partner, she wants more than being around for only her best moments. You can’t love nature fully if you hide from her far-reaching emotions, colors, shades, moods. Sure, you might know her well, but you haven’t yet offered all of yourself in return for truly knowing her harsh beauty.

I’d made a lifelong friend on this trip. Nature didn’t sugarcoat anything, she didn’t worry about hurting my feelings or hiding, she didn’t care if I came to her wearing makeup and high heels or with stark, naked flesh. And she knew better than to enable me with her many resources and offerings - she could provide me with everything I needed, but I had to make the effort to learn how to cultivate, use, and interpret. Feeling grateful for and challenged by this relationship was an understatement.

Laying in the tent, my face cool against the chilled air, I could smell rain on it’s way. The thunder grew louder and the tent fabric snapped ferociously as electricity jolted the air.

Somehow, in all the chaos, my eyes closed and I slept in peace as the storm raged around me.

Early the next morning, I awoke refreshed, surprised that I fell asleep before the intensity of the storm had really pummeled the campground. The sun was bright, whitish-yellow, filtered through the pine needles and remaining fall leaves, casting playful shadows on the tent. The air smelled of soaked earth and pine while cheerful birds praised the morning with exuberance. Sitting up cross-legged in my sleeping bag, I rolled my head forward, then side to side, rolled my shoulders and flexed my back before reaching upward to a stand. Sleeping on the ground had become comfortable with a good stretch, which caused a gradual process of rounding the corners off of my body, bit by bit.

Grasping the cool zipper, I pulled the tent door open and my slow, bleary-eyed self snapped to attention. A tree, ten inches in diameter, lay only a couple of feet from my tent. As the storm raged and I somehow slept through it, this tree gave up the fight and came to a crushing rest less than an arm’s length from my flimsy shelter.

See? You are safe.

Holy crap.

A different spin, a heavier gust, maybe one obstacle less on its way down, and I could have been a sad tale featured in the local headlines. “Widow makers” are heavy tree limbs that sometimes fall on unsuspecting people when a tree is being cut down. I wondered what the term would be for a whole damn tree crushing someone.

Unfortunate, for sure.

Stepping over the body of the tree, I surveyed the otherwise untouched campsite - and van - to be met by my all-too-friendly neighbor.

“Quite a blow last night, wasn’t it?”

“Looks like,” I answered.

“Well, I’d say you’re feeling pretty lucky this morning,” he said, rolling back on his heels with a rubbery grin.

“Yes, sir, it’s a great morning. How can we not feel lucky, right?” I quickly spun around, leaving no question that the conversation was over. This man gave me the creeps and after all his watching for the last couple of days, he’d finally found an opportunity to make conversation.

Other thoughts drifted through my mind. My blunt friend, Nature, had pretty obviously sent me a message. She hadn’t killed or even hurt me with it, but I’d managed to sleep soundly enough and she’d been quiet enough with the setup that it was a surprise to me.

Intuition is a strange and fantastic sense. When it strikes in a quick flash, the kind that tells a person not to drive a certain route or not to trust someone, it’s loud and direct. It’s natural and easy to act immediately with the flash, leaving any question you had for later.

But there are different volumes of intuition and when it’s not the loud flash, it comes as a wave of something as soft as a whisper. Some people have the gift of hearing these whispers all the time and always have. Others spend a lot of time learning to hear them, then interpret the language, and even then translate it into their own dictionaries. Most of the time this comes by way of our senses.

Nature is a companion who speaks through the senses. She wants to converse, assist even, and she has a lot to say without expectation or pretense. Intuition, the deeply-feeling use and understanding of all senses, is the shared language.

The other side of intuition is getting all that other personal stuff - and ego - out of the way. Otherwise, it’s easy to get the jumble of pure messages and muddled ego confused: a little like shaking a Magic 8 Ball until getting the desired answer, five, six, seven times.

Nature is ready to talk. But she makes no bones about you being athentic, even raw when doing so. She doesn't care what you do with the information you gain from asking questions and receiving answers, but she does crave the exchange. And Nature is always waiting for you to slow down enough to see her reaching out for that connection at every turn.

Make the connection. Touch Nature with your feet, hands, mind, and senses. You will never regret it.

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