“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Yves Cousteau
Mountains and Seas, unlike most other natural realities, have a way of pulling us out of ourselves and often moving us to the needed and necessary perspective on life. For me, Maine has become the home of where the two converge into one, where climbing can lead to some of the deepest places and the depths of the sea move you to some of the highest reaching points of discovery, all at the same moment. Even upon departure there’s a sadness that overcomes in that, with the return to the world of life and work, where depth and heights are all but a mystery, stagnant, and even discouraged, the longing and call to nature never leaves, that, as Cousteau points out, casts a spell and captivates forever. Nature has the ability to seduce us in ways unlike much else, pointing to greater depths and heights that often can only be left to the imagination.
A great deal has been written about nature depravity that has become the norm in our culture. The days of spending our summer’s as kids outdoors and using our imaginations has all but dissipated with time. The use of electronics, structured play, and all the rest may have progressed us as a people, but the long-term impact of cutting ourselves off from what is most important and what provides us meaning in our lives will be hard to recover in the generations that follow. Despite the relentlessness that nature can have on us, as we see through the extremes of weather plaguing the globe, its ability to show compassion and care for the wanderer and seeker isn’t to be overlooked.
Climbing a mountain or spending that week in the woods along the endless shoreline, resurrects that child within to expand the imagination and open the heart to new possibility. Even in watching others hiking along side at times, it was fascinating to see that much of it was about accomplishing another task, just as we do in our work lives, in order to move onto the next mountain or the path that follows, rather than allowing ourselves to stop and be in the moment, allowing the natural world to speak to and with our souls. More often than not it speaks a language that remains foreign to us, not dictated by ourselves but by the eternal and the unearthed creation in which we share and walk, hand in hand.
Over time the line and all that separates begins to fall away like scales from the eyes, noticing the intricacy of a freshly spun web, the movement of the fog that seems all too real in life at times, the fallen trees that have been given the proper reverence to return to the earth untouched in order to continue the cycle, all of this unfolding before our eyes and within our very beings waiting to be explored and discovered all anew as if seeing it for the first time yet over and over again. The natural world, in all its beauty and wonder, provides us all with what we are often lacking in our lives, the natural silence in which can only be heard the groans of new birth breaking forth from the earth, mirroring to us the gift that is freely being offered to us in this very moment if we can only allow ourselves to stop, to breathe, to surrender, and to recall from where and whom we have come. As much as things change, life and death and the perpetual mystery that surrounds remains intact, ever-true and ever-deepening, nature pointing the way to the naturalness of it all.
It was, though, the guide while whale watching, that reminded us all that we only but see the surface with any of it. What lies beneath the sea remains unexplored and ever-expanding. Her reminder to all, whether it was heard or not, is true of each of us. We only see what our eyes allow us to see in any given moment while so much remains undiscovered. We trust that what is unseen is there and contains much life but our own fears prevent us from embarking. The mountains of Acadia, as breathless as the are to see, pale in comparison to what lies beneath in the depths of the earth and sea that continues to call us forth. Noise, life, distractions, success, accomplishments, and all the rest act as faithful guards to the unexplored. I don’t have the time. I’m busy with work. I can’t get away. Excuse and excuse, at our own doing, keeps us safe from going to such places and not closing the gap between nature and ourselves, and even more so, closing the gap between me and myself and you and yourself. Nature opens the door to another world, a world of possibility and healing, a world in which we desperately want to hide, or for that matter, avoid.
It doesn’t take long to begin to feel that loss when, after being immersed for days, we return to life and what often feels so unnatural. The beckoning and longing only seem to deepen and yearn all the more as the days and years march on. In these moments of my own life I’m not sure I could even stop myself from making that time to return in order to be found once again, breathing a sigh of relief that all is right with the world again and again, freely falling into the hands that wait. Until then, the memories remain of the light dancing off the water, waves crashing against the sea, stumbles and falls, tears and joy, of all that the natural world continues to provide for me and so many others that feel that deprivation. If anything, it stands as a safe place, a place that only wants you to be you and nothing else and where nothing else matters. It allows us to stand naked, unashamed and unafraid, in all our own highs and lows, light and darkness, and even the glimpses of the shadows that provide shelter. When the mountains and sea converge into one the consequence is a convergence in our own lives, standing in the tension of life and death, what stays and goes, while continuing to walk on and through, allowing mystery to be revealed step by step.