Lessons Nature Taught Me
By Grace Gulley
Most of my life I’ve suffered from decidophobia. I wasn’t scared so much of making the wrong choice, as I was scared that if I did make a choice I would be held accountable in following through, and consequently, judged by others. I’m sure you can imagine what happens to an 8-year-0ld girl with this problem. And again what happens to a teenager who is supposed to be making those big important, life-altering decisions! Like, what do I do with my life?
It was a bumpy adolescent ride. I tried many ‘career paths’ and entertained the idea of too many professions. My specialty was starting things. You need an idea, I’ve got them all! But follow through? Not so much. After all, if I tried too hard, then I became vulnerable and opened myself up to criticism. Best not to go down that path! This certainly did not help my self-esteem or confidence. I watched friends get really good at things, but I couldn’t stick with something long enough to get really good at it. Instead I became more reserved.
The only answer from there was to totally remove myself and go live near a forest (I mean Disney princess life is a real option, right?). Surprisingly, despite this being a form of escapism, it had the exact opposite effect and totally altered everything. The ultimate outcome was exactly what I needed and brought me back to life.
My move was fairly brash, primarily because I had no idea what the hell I was doing in my life and a little bit because OH-SO-PRETTY! Plus, I was convinced that because I couldn’t make any serious decisions as to my life’s direction, the hermit cabin life was for me, and Portland was my first step towards that. A twenty-minute drive and I was surrounded by lush green walls and ceremoniously, over-the-top waterfalls. Perfect.
I spent a lot of time hiking alone. Hours and hours along serpentine trails, overgrown trails, making up my own trails! Nobody was around, so fear of what others thought started to disappear. And that gave way to new thoughts. I started to really look inward. As I hiked under waterfalls and experienced raw nature, I was getting raw with myself. For the first time in my life, I was allowed to experience how I felt instead of trying to decipher what others thought of me. It was powerful, and I have the loneliness and solitude of nature to thank for that.
For the first time in my life, I was allowed to experience how I felt instead of trying to decipher what others thought of me. It was powerful, and I have the loneliness and solitude of nature to thank for that.
This quiet, reflective time became so valuable that I would make any excuse I could to get back on the trail. Whether it was sneaking away for a morning loop trail, or escaping for the weekend into the Cascades. There was a very specific moment that altered my life and perspective. I had just spent two nights staying in strangers’ cabins in the middle of no-man’s land. To be less dramatic, I was airbnb’ing at places where my cell reception had long since dropped out.
Before I moved to Oregon, I had been fantasizing about visiting the Tamolitch Blue Pool along the Mckenzie River. This was the day I finally lived out that fantasy. My nerves were kicking in hard! The car ride off the highway and back onto a somewhat unsettling, bumpy, nondescript road certainly didn’t help. I had never been this alone and so far removed from everyone. In fact, I hadn’t even told anyone where I was going. (Side note, this is not the advised way to go on an adventre!) For a split second after I turned off my engine, I considered not doing it. Instead, I shut out that mental chatter, got out of the car and ran to the trailhead.
The first part of the trail is old-growth Douglas Firs, and looks as if someone took the saturation dial and cranked it WAY UP. It’s surreal, and helped me break intermittently from the thoughts in my head: ‘this is the point where a bear eats me and everyone wonders what happened to that nice girl that used to live here.’ As you continue along the trail, you get glimpses of the Mckenzie rushing by. Even though you certainly wouldn’t want to fall in, it is something spectacular to see. It’s all chaos and swirling water, yet it felt calming to have some sort of life and movement contrasted against the stillness of the forest. After a short time, I climbed up and caught my first glimpse of the Pools. Every single bit of magic that people had warned me about! The turquoise waters were like a siren call, luring me to lean a little more over the cliff edge. I sat here for a while, a long while.
… I started to hear my inner voice, sans judgment and fear of criticism. There was a sense of nowness and clarity I had never felt before.
It was around this point I started to hear my inner voice, sans judgment and fear of criticism. There was a sense of nowness and clarity I had never felt before. (If you have ever meditated and hit that point where you are totally present, where you feel the weight of your body for the first time, and yet somehow feel lighter and more alive than ever, then you know the feeling I’m talking about!) I had shut out the chatter, the ego, and pushed forward along the trail. And now, sitting in front of something beautiful, I was exactly where I should be.
As I drove out of the Cascades that afternoon, everything seemed right. Every decision I made came easy and I had the feeling that intuitively the universe would take care of me. As long as I always showed up and was present. It was then I decided to take action, and quit waiting for perfection. I had the thought that I wanted to help other females find their calling and happiness. So, I started CYL with no worry about what could go wrong or fear that it wasn’t ready to be seen by others. The process would refine what I was creating. It wasn’t long until the idea caught on. Being on that path also led me to macrame, and I fell in love with fibers. Because I was no longer listening to the mental chatter, I was finally on the right path. I was doing something I truly believed in; I had found my calling in creating support systems for others and my creative outlet in fiber arts.
Nature is a lot like the creative process (and life I suppose!). You love it, then you doubt yourself, then you hate it, then you come around, and eventually you realize it is perfect and exactly what you needed.
While I certainly take any opportunity I have to go back to nature to recenter and ground myself, you have to learn to function on a day-to-day basis in a way that helps you maintain that peace. Every day I practice the things that Blue Pool taught me, mindfulness and listening to your true voice. Now I can spend my life where I need to be and helping others while still vibrating at a higher frequency. And some days I’ll escape to a hidden and overgrown trail, fear for my life a bit, push forward and ultimately marvel at how it all comes together to create this big beautiful world we live in.
Hear Grace recite an excerpt from this piece in the podcast episode, “Alone on the Trail”->
What experiences in nature have taught you life lessons?
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