As a child I spent many hours outdoors playing, climbing trees and exploring the island that was my backyard. I was lucky enough to be raised in Hawaii when time and money was a concept that was not yet a constant reminder of my mortality. When I think of why I love writing, I am reminded of my childhood explorations, my imagination that sees no boundaries and my dreams of flying around the universe (virtually, of course) without fear or doubt. Although I have always had a moderate fear of heights, my soul takes me to far off places where my fears are left behind. My doubts dissolve in the fluidity of my imagination and in the freedom that is so easily accessible within my mind, yet is often so hard to grasp. So I ask in the main page of my blog if you ever wonder what would happen if your soul could take flight and if so, where would it go, what would it see and would it ever come back.
I found my answer on a journey I began a year ago into the mountains of Colorado where we were excavating a fort, surrounded by nature, living out of a tent with no cell phone reception. It was nowhere near back country camping as we had access to outhouses and stoves to cook with. We even had a few hose showers if you felt like taking a shower with 30 degree water. We went down the mountain twice a week for hot showers and to purchase supplies. For some, it was a chance to call home. As luck would have it I happened to have a service provider that isn’t covered well in this part of Colorado so the only time I could contact home was when I was in a wifi designated hot spot, which wasn’t easy to come by in those parts. My daughter, perceptive as she is, thought to create a Facebook group chat for family that I was occasionally able to utilize to keep everyone posted on my travels.
Prior to heading out west I played my part in the collective group, fitting into society’s standards, finding myself blindly following a pattern that repeats itself every day throughout our country. I contributed to society, humbly staking claim to a grey cubicle on the 4th floor, plugging away at the computer in a routine that repeated itself in a continuously programmed loop. It’s a pattern we have been programed to follow – living to work, to provide for our family, to grind through consumerism without going too overboard and becoming controlled by it. Too often we are driven by consumerism into this pitfall of “the wants” without concern for the needs. People’s desires crave the newest and greatest in the techno-frenzy, discarding all other options.
What I learned while separated from what I lovingly used to call my third brain, is that mobile phones and computers have become a necessary commodity. Many of us are expected to continue working while we are off the clock through home or cell phone access to emails, even when we’re taking time off to be with family. Children today are faced with a growing gap in education as those who cannot afford a computer at home cannot complete their assignments as so much is computer driven. Family togetherness is also lacking as we see a visible disconnect with whole families sitting together at restaurants yet not actually present as they are each in a virtual world of their own.
Although I missed my family dearly, I learned much from the isolation, from the journey to and from and in the experiences I encountered with unfamiliar people and places. As a species we tend to get complacent. Not all of us, but most feel a bit of anxiety when they’re faced with change, yet there’s a sense of freedom that comes with change that is beautiful and embracing. We feel that same anxiety when we forget our phones at home. We feel like we’re missing a part of us.
It is the break from that thought process that gave me the freedom to see again, the freedom to let my soul take me wherever my thoughts can conceive. It is that freedom that gave me the strength to stand alone on the edge of a cliff, despite my fears, and gaze across the beautiful sandstone rock in hues of rolling orange and tan, releasing the tether that binds me to the Earth.
I have felt that momentary release while sitting on my paddleboard with my eyes closed, moving to the ebb and flow of the current in Atlantic Ocean. I have felt it sitting on the edge of a desert plateau overlooking the canyon with cliff dwellings carved out from people hundreds of years ago. I felt it in the birth of my daughter. However, I never felt it sitting in a cubicle or in a conference room.
I cried the day I left Florida for the Colorado Mountains. I was leaving behind my entire family. I drove out of the IHOP parking lot in tears after hugging my family one last time. As luck would have it a hurricane was passing through Florida. It wasn’t a powerful one, I’d been through so many, so I decided to keep my scheduled departure date. It was a distraction from a restless and doubtful mind that might have kept me from turning my car around. Had I realized then that the majority of my journey would be without access to cell phone coverage I might have never left, but am thankful for the enlightenment it has given me.
Detaching from technology and allowing myself to see and experience the world offered a perspective that I had seen since childhood. I had glimpsed it from afar in past short excursions, but never in the clarity seen when watching a herd of elk wandering across a meadow or sitting outside your tent listening to the water running over river rock and the birds singing duets with the fluttering leaves of the trees. It was raw and natural.
It was no longer necessary to put up blinders to the transgressions of the world. It was no longer necessary to filter the world in rose colored lenses. Nothing else mattered. It was unfiltered, awakening and humbling in the most elegant way and reignited a sense of freedom that allowed me to return to society and see it for what it is – confining and conforming. It was easy to understand why in our initial welcome to camp speech our crew chief’s warning was “You will likely have some readjustment time when you return home.” I was at camp for six weeks but returned home after nearly ten weeks later as I continued to explore my surroundings. I still have not adjusted and never plan to return to who I was before.
Much of our prejudices are formed through social constructs, not just in people, but in places and things as well. Walls have been built throughout our existence to define us, but they are also built to contain us. Not in the sense that we feel protected, but in a mindset that defines the way we think, the way we see things and how this information is filtered. We are trained from birth on how to view the world and everything within it and are given these walls, or barriers, to keep us in line with the collective group. Some fall in line quietly while others push back or simply jump ship, and others make it their place to keep those boundaries intact. But these are walls built to keep a form and structure in a fluid environment.
Although I never found myself particularly bound by a religious faith or social structure, I have always followed a moral code that guided me through life and felt a spirituality in nature that cannot be defined. Because of this it is easy to see why our ancestors embraced gods to explain the beauty and fury of nature. It also became easy to see why people who take the journey into nature, embracing its simplicity, can often be lured to never return to the complex, industrialized and socialized structures of the world we live in today.
Being comfortable with who I am becoming, breaking from the mold of conformity has freed me from my own chains, from my own limits. I conquered my fears, most of them anyway, and traveled a path that years earlier had nearly brought me to my knees… literally. I walked that trail alone as the sun rose in the east, up rough trails, along cliff edges and steep inclines, across ledges that I would have never crossed before because of the limits my fear of heights held me to. Most important is that I felt more connected to myself than ever before because in my journey of self-discovery I had broken down the walls that limited my vision, clouding my view of the world beyond, and have found the balance that allows me to see more clearly.
Where did my soul go when I set it free? Where it still goes today. Wherever I want it to go because it has no limits, no boundaries, no blinders. Sometimes it returns to nature where I can rejuvenate my sense of well being and remember there is something else beyond the walls of the social structure we live within. More important though, I can see within myself someone without limits, without boundaries, without blinders.