Exploring the wild spring in Indiana, Ohio, & West Virginia

In late May through mid-June, we journeyed quite a bit… relishing weekends camping, hiking, and white water rafting in three strikingly different Midwestern landscapes. I notice how my experience of my interior world is intimately and deeply impacted by my environment:

Within the lush green and gentle falls in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I find myself feeling protected by the cover of forest canopy above, and lulled by the sound of trickle and light fall of water.

YSYS kids crossing waterYS waterfallIn the sandy expanse of the Indiana Dunes disappearing into the waves of Lake Michigan at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, I am aware of my freedom, as well as the illusions of constancy I often cling to in life. I feel my surrender to the sand moving underneath my toes; the sound of the water rhythmically arriving and departing against the shore; the feeling of the breeze swirling around me… to the arrival and departure of my breath, of my thoughts, of each moment… to my ever changing and moving life.

IN dunes lake michiganUprooted rooted treeThe walk-in campsites at the National Lakeshore campground were lovely.  And during one of our hikes at the dunes, we had privilege of watching a bald eagle perched and gracefully take flight.

Rafting through the powerful rapids in New River Gorge, West Virginia, I was aware of my tiny size and the intensity of the forces around me. Those crashing waters! Those jutting rocks! That bright hot sun shining down on my skin! I was so small in the raft, using my little arms to push water with all my might, hands clutched onto the oar as I worked to maintain my balance and keep from being tossed into the water and rocks around me. My heart beat fast and my breathing was quick. And then we would pass through to calmer waters… and, as my heartbeat and breathing eased, I noticed the stunning nature around me. Then, helmets on, start to brace – we’ve got another rapid coming!

West Virginia New River Gorge sunset.jpgI am so thankful to find myself in each of these landscapes. For the land to bring me back to such different elements of my own be-ing. To be reminded of all the ways in which earth and I are truly one.

Geraniums in the woods

Enchanted by the Cranberry Wilderness

It was the kind of wilderness within which you might actually expect to see little gnomes and fairies wandering around. Breath-taking beauty, forests with a lush mossy carpet floor, ferns and rhododendrons galore, and a striking abundance orchids; we just may have stumbled upon a version of paradise in the Cranberry Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia.

Toadstool mossy cottageElizabeth in a natural mossy chairIt had been 4 months since my colleague Russell and I had taken our last backpacking trip together. During that space in time, we both had some outdoor adventures separately and moved through significant life-altering experiences along the way. As we began our trip out to West Virginia, I noticed the comforting feeling of easing into an unknown wilderness with a familiar companion.

Russell and I set our intentions as we approached the trailhead. He named his intention of being present and awake to more fully noticing the landscape surrounding him. I named an intention of dropping down into a more grounded and centered space as I moved through and related to this natural landscape, as I related to Russell on this journey, and as I related to my own thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

Russell in the big forestElizabeth walking amongst the trees and rocksRussell taking a breakElizabeth taking a rest on the mossy rock As we shifted out of the overwhelming stimuli of our urbanized environment, I noticed my whole body quieting. I felt more spaciousness and allowance for simply what was in the moment. I noticed appreciating the richness of shared silence as much as the richness of meaningful conversation. I became more fully aware of the stars overhead (there was no rain on this particular trip, so we were truly able to sleep beneath the stars each night), the sounds of the birds, the lulling trickle of the creeks and streams nearby, and the cadence of my own breath.

Landscape view We experienced the physical exertion of carrying a pack, navigating some muddy trails, walking long distances in search of water, and moving up some steep inclines. We experienced deep relaxation provoked by the sensations of sunlight and the breeze against our skin, delicious food cooked over a camp stove while surrounded by a stunning environment, and by the knowing that both of us relied on one another in such fundamental ways on those trails, and that both of us would show up in support of one another as we navigated areas of smooth and challenging terrain.

Elizabeth and Russell looking up at the skyCairnDuring our car ride back to Ohio, we talked about our hope for future backpacking trips. As we reached the month of May 2018, we both agreed: of course we will return to the Monongahela National Forest. The plentiful orchids will be in bloom. The majestic Cranberry Wilderness will call us back.