I’ve had an incredible year so far. It’s been full of introspection, isolation and revelations. All good things for me. As an introvert, I’m happiest surrounded by the people I love in quiet settings, enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Nature, family, friends and the solace of peace. These things have been my focus the past seven months. I’ve filled journals and written more from my heart than all the years I’ve been writing. It didn’t always flow…sometimes I pulled it out, cutting the cords as it landed, bloody and cold, on the paper. But that’s what healing looks like. That’s what the heart needs in order to grow. Each time it’s broken, it rebuilds stronger, larger and (if allowed) able to hold even more love the next time.
Lately I’ve been working to find my “authentic self”. To speak (aloud) my needs, wants and boundaries and not just put them on paper. I’ve been struggling to be true to myself and follow my true path. Again, nothing easy there. But one thing that wasn’t hard was discovering my passions. While there weren’t a lot of surprises in what makes me happy, what was surprising is that I’ve known what they were all along and have even started down the path so many times. But I kept turning around. I kept forgetting where I was going. I was so focused on the destination, I forgot how to get there. I forgot I need to put one foot in front of the other and DO something in order to get there.
Like any smart hiker, my journey is planned. I have my map, my supplies and my emergency plan in place. I have my first aid kit. I have my team. I’ve done all my research, know all the potential risks and potential glories. But what good is all the preparation if I never step outside? Never break in my new boots? So, I’m ready to go. I’m taking the physical steps to create the dream I’ve been visualizing for so long. My path is clear. It’s rough and it’s full of pot holes, but it’s my path. It’s the one I need to take in order to arrive at my destination. It’s my journey. I’ve spent a great deal of time deep in the soul. It’s time to leave the proverbial cave, set my compass and point my face to the sun.
Because you can’t get there from here…if you don’t move.
Hiking, or “woods walking” has always been my solace. It’s where my soul regenerates and I can get in touch with something so primal and authentic it speaks to my very inner core. Sure, it’s good exercise and removes the cobwebs from my head, but it’s so much more than that. It’s not about the hike. It’s not about the walk. It’s about being at one with the earth and hearing nothing except my own heartbeat (and the birds). It’s about being surrounded by trees and dirt and rocks that will far outlive me. We come and go. The earth beneath our feet is eternal. The rocks, while they may eventually erode or crumble, will be here for many generations. I look at the stone walls that line the old back roads and think of those that came before. The people that cut down forests and built their houses in new fields; those same fields that are now overgrown with pine and maple trees once again. Nothing remains except remnants of cellar holes, boundary lines and old animal pens.
They are logging a lot of the hill where I walk. At first it broke my heart as the landscape changed and became unrecognizable. Swaths of newly cut land created a foreign world where I once felt at home. But now, slowly, it’s becoming familiar again. Just different. Trees that had stood for perhaps a hundred years lay abandoned, cut and left to rot into earth. The cycle is continuing. Life is continuing. I thought about how the farmer’s children, returning to their homestead decades later, must have been saddened by the trees overtaking their beautiful gardens, pastures and fields. How those same trees are now being felled to give way to pasture and fields once again.
These moments give me insight into life like nothing else could. I’m reminded continually of the cycle that surrounds us. Life and death. Growth and decay. It’s everywhere all the time. We cannot mourn what is missing for something new is happening. Where there were trees, fields will take over. Where one thing was, another takes its place. Different. Foreign at first, but gradually becoming familiar. For me, where pain once lived, a new peace is taking hold. Where once I felt alone, now I feel quiet. It’s very, very different.
I’m coming into a new period of my life. I suppose it’s called “empty nest” but it’s much more than that. I’m coming into a time where I can focus solely on me. On unveiling the person I’ve become over the years. It’s happened slowly. Pieces of who I used to be have faded away, much like the erosion eating at the rocks that were stacked purposefully into stonewalls a century ago. I’ve been stacking experiences and emotions into a new formation. Solid and strong enough to last throughout my life. I’ve changed. I’ve morphed into a different person without really noticing. But now is the time to take notice. I’ve the time, the quiet and the solitude to be able to find out who lies beneath this skin I wear. Who lives deep within and what I need to bring to the surface. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun, but it’s a journey like no other. Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. It’s time to light a torch and enter the cave. They don’t call me Jewels for nothing*… for I am my own treasure.
*Although, when I was young my cousins DID call me “Jewels Worth Nothing”. But they did so in such a way that I knew they loved me more than any jewel they could ever hold.