In Northern Vermont, I grew up surrounded by fields and streams and wooded hills. They were wildly enchanting and nature was an incredible friend to me. I would get completely absorbed in adventures out in the raspberry thickets of late summer, crude fort-building missions with the dead sticks of autumn, sledding in winter snow, and playing in giant field puddles after the spring thaw. I never noticed not having human friends aside from my sister.
With all of that wonderful nature (and the dog and pony that my parents were generous enough to let me have for companions), I don’t think I ever felt the need to make friends. Until I got to school and realized that that might be weird.
When I rolled up to first grade wearing my chosen uniform of black jeans, black hologram Transformer sneakers, and a bright red tee shirt, I noticed that the other girls seemed to have figured out how to make friends in a way that was foreign to me. They were much more “girly”, and huddled in little groups wearing pink and purple and giggling together. I clearly didn’t fit in.
That year my only friend became the one other girl in class who didn’t have any friends. She was from a deeply Christian family and was the oldest of eight siblings – and we were six years old. I don’t even know how that is mathematically possible. Her life outside school revolved around the church. She was different too, so our friendship was born of being the leftover kids. Plus we both loved sticking My Little Ponies in streams and puddles.
As the years passed, I became more attuned to the social hierarchy in school and more interested in being a part of it. I gradually figured out how to make more friends, and ultimately had a little group of gals I connected with.
By the time I made it to high school, nature no longer held such a special place for me. Sure, a field was a great place to have a secret field party and not get caught drinking. And going snowboarding did necessitate a mountain covered with snow. But I couldn’t feel the enchantment of nature in the way I did when I was a little girl.
But it seems that if you’re lucky in this life, the long slow arc of time takes you back to what you knew as a child. As it has for me…
In recent years nature has been reaching its branches out and pointing straight at me: I want you! It seems to say. Winded leaves have been beckoning. The smell of the earth has been tempting me to come away from the screen, the plans, the to-dos…
I am just beside Prospect Park so I can go out and wander on the paths or talk to the ducks and chat with the chickadees whenever I’ve got a spare 20 minutes.
And I’m wildly lucky that Evalena from Yoga Sole has looped me in to host the yoga retreat/adventure to Costa Rica each March with her. Somehow, it’s all coming back around.
Last year when I was teaching yoga at this retreat up in the jungle hills of the Osa Peninsula, it all came together in the most full-circle way. The whole message of the eco-friendly Luna Lodge is that we are the guests of the animals and the forest. As such, we are not there to disturb or change anything, we are there to be humbly hosted by nature.
I stayed in my own little permanent tent high up on a hill that the breezes passed through and the tall trees rustled up against. Well, the tent wasn’t totally mine. I shared it with a lizard and a large moth.
The sun so naturally put me to bed there. The howler monkeys so purposefully woke me up. Upon being howled awake, it was still dark out so I’d go down to the open-air dining room, get a cup of coffee, and walk slowly back up the long winding path of rocky steps to sit on my porch and watch the day dawn. This is when I’d ask myself, so what should I teach this morning?
And every morning the answer was the same: teach them to look and listen, to feel and hear this nature all around. With your words, polish off their cataracts so they can see clearly and be taught by the forest, the wind, the creatures and the sky ~ not you.
I have not yet figured out how this life works, but I know for certain that it is much more enchanted than we give it credit for. And I also know for certain that the more you step out into nature, you will find this for yourself
over and over again.
Go out now. Tomorrow. The next day. Plan your trips around nature. Don’t give up til you can see it like a child again. That’s my plan anyway.
And if you want to come to Costa Rica with me, come! I will do my best to close my mouth and help you see…