This Texan “Flatlander” has been in Santa Fe for one month now, and I knew before moving here that the heights would bring opportunities for wisdom and reflection. However, there is no way to predict the lessons learned from time spent in nature’s glory; one just needs to get out there and be completely open to the experience. And I’ll tell you what, partner! Early October is an ideal time to do it. The Santa Fe Ski Basin offers multiple trails that provide breathtaking views of the changing Aspen leaves this time of year, and a solo hike along the Aspen Vista Trail provided not only scenery, but some reminders as well:
We are everchanging.
From a distance, the golds, greens, and oranges of the treetops bleed into one another like a painting, making it difficult to pinpoint where the color change begins and ends. Every fleeting feeling, every new relationship, every major transition ultimately flows together, forming the grand landscape of our lives. The minutiae of this change does not always appear beautiful, as we trudge through vacillating states of joy, complacency and discomfort, life and death, but it is nature’s way. Resistance is futile. The trees will go bare, and it will be up to us to find the life there until new growth inevitably begins.
Beauty lies off the trail.
All right, don’t send the Parks Department after me, but I have found it is not always best to stay on the trail. Of course, we should tread with respect, but I find that if we stick to the “tried and true” too much, we will miss out on the chance to forge our own path, and to see what lies on the other side of our curiosity. If we find ourselves in danger, we can always go back to following the rules, but this time, the trail rewarded me for my investigations.
Photographs can bring you closer or further away from what you’re trying to capture.
I intended to take pictures along my hike, in hopes of portraying the awe I felt to those who were not there with me. Along the way, I caught myself viewing my surroundings as artistic opportunity, rather than as a refuge from this kind of external validation. The truth as it appears to me is that I cannot fully appreciate the breadth of the world at large through a viewfinder, but my camera allows me to “zoom in” on the delightful details of this greater picture that I may otherwise miss. That being said, even with the iPhone’s panorama feature, no photograph can capture the richness of a full sensory experience. It is important to recognize and appreciate both what I see and what the camera sees.
Nature supports us in our pain.
It has been a rough week. Adjusting to a new place and learning to call it “home,” away from those who know and love me, has not felt completely natural. Furthermore, facing my shadow daily as a student through my readings, classes and personal therapy, has brought a lot of grief to the surface. With pain and self-awareness has come enlightenment and self-love, but it hasn’t been easy. Nature is not cold, but it is indifferent to my suffering. It, too, experiences pain, and does not distract me from it, but encourages me to keep walking through it and find solace in what has been there long before me.
My body knows what I need.
As a person who tends to get stuck in my head, always thinking, always evaluating and discarding, always idealizing, it is important for me to give equal weight to the knowledge stored within my body. I am learning to listen to the information it so generously provides, and the more I respond to these signals, the more I appreciate their input. Water and almonds fuel me forward when I feel like turning around, the flexibility of my ankles and feet as they touch uneven ground prevent me from injury, my lungs, though struggling from the damage I have done to them as a smoker, keep taking in air, reminding me that they are strong enough to heal themselves once I decide to give up the self-destructing habit. My runny nose and stinging eyes as I approach the Evergreen reminds me to listen to my classmates and get some local honey and nettle tea as soon as possible. The pumping endorphins as I return to my car tell me I should do this again.
I am where I need to be.
Gratitude. I am safe here. I am growing here. I followed my soul’s natural desire for change and challenge and I am being rewarded for it. Had I not chosen to take a leap of faith, I may not have been reminded so poignantly that we change like the seasons, that there are treasures buried in the unknown, that there is beauty in both the big picture and the details, that I am supported, that both my mind and body will take care of me in my journey if I choose to listen. Nature is always willing to teach, and I am willing to learn.
**Interested in the healing power of Nature? Check out Southwestern College’s Ecotherapy Certificate program.