I went camping in a place with canyons and rock formations, emerald pools and birds of prey. This place is millions of years old, and when I was there, there were many moments when it felt as though I had entered a different realm.
The environment, the hikes, the experience of camping during the off-season, when visitors are more reluctant to deal with the harsh realities of the winter’s cold – it all transported me from the trappings of my own ego and modern life, into a place where I was insignificant, and yet allowed to enter. It transported me into deep time.
Just before dawn, when the moon dipped below the canyon, there were more stars in the sky than I had seen in years. Due to the place I live and its light pollution, I can count the number of times I have seen such a starry sky on one hand. Yet when I remembered all those moments, those younger versions of myself that had stared up at dark skies, I realized I had never once felt alone in those memories, even though I only saw such skies when I was in the most isolated of places. Why is that? What am I feeling when I look at those stars? Is it the memories being brought to life within me? A presence that’s greater than me? As I type this, I’m sitting in my apartment in a city. There are streetlamps and skylines lighting the world outside, at all times.
When I look at these lights, I don’t feel that presence.
The rock formations outside of my tent would change color depending on the time of day and the weather’s mood – from orange and red embers, to pure gold, to shades of lilac, or brown and black. If I looked closely, I could imagine pictures in the rocks, the way my childhood self used to imagine objects in the clouds as a child. But unlike clouds, these pictures didn’t shapeshift. I could spot formations that looked like eyes and faces, as if the rocks were always looking over the land I was treading. It would see people come, and it would see everyone go.
I hiked through the cold, emerald waters that were as alluring as they were intimidating. There were ravens that flew through the canyon, and I won’t forget the way they landed. I wished that I could’ve inhabited the places I’ve been with such authority. Then again, I’ve been a visitor much of my life, always passing through homes that I never want to claim as my own.
During this trip, internet didn’t work. And I didn’t want it to. I was surrounded by formidable, steady yet ever-changing canyons and rock formations, with waters flowing and dark skies glittering, snow dusting its surroundings and California Condors reclaiming their perch after near extinction. My desires, my purpose – it all felt laughably crystalline, as if it was impossible to imagine how I could ever feel confused before.
To be able to grow as a human being and experience the mysteries of the world, the mysteries of this existence, would be a blessed, abundant life. And to be able to engage with creativity – to continue to write, and stay as close to that feeling of creative flow as I possibly can, is icing on the cake.
The trappings and habits of modern life can muddy such a feeling of clarity. But the memory is part of me now. The canyons and condors, the jewel toned waters and snow dusted world – it all lives within my memory. And when my modern life feels confusing and muddy, I can return to my memories of starry skies and wild hikes, and let those moments of the past guide my future.
There is so much noise, so much stimulation in this life. I hope you may call upon your own memories, the moments when you knew exactly what you wanted out of this life, and why. No matter how far back those memories take you, may you use them to guide you, too.