Reflecting Under the Midnight Sky

LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS never stops. The wind still blows when we tend our broken heart. The trees bend and sway, even on a Monday.

Nature reflects the strength of the cosmos and the path to perfection which math and science embarked on billions of years ago.

If cities provide for the existence of humans, then nature affords for our sanity. Nature speaks to us through our senses — touch, sound, smells, sights, and says: there’s more to life out there. Furthermore, there’s more to live within you.

I was reminded of this powerful sentiment when one of my best friends, Gregory Russell Benedikt, and I were snowshoeing through the pines of Bend, Oregon, under the midnight sky.

We began the hike with a group of strangers who had signed up for the excursion. However, by the end, we felt like we’d been through something deeply moving together.

The hike took several hours of what felt like wading through a sea of fluffy white pillows with tennis racquets strapped to our boots. While it was tiring, I never expected it to be so much fun.

We trekked through the snow and relentless elements until we reached our destination, a cavernous arena of snow surrounding a fire pit to kick back for a while.

Sipping whisky by the blazing fire was a welcomed respite after the strenuous hike. We relished each sip of the burning liquid; it dulled the aches in our legs and turned us strangers into cheerful friends.

We could have stayed around the smoldering embers all night, telling stories and discovering more about each other.

But the night had more in store. On the way down, I had a moment to myself which I’ll never forget.

About halfway down the mountain, our guide told us all to go off and be alone for a while. I trudged through the deeply packed snow to find a spot to be by myself.

I asked for silence; I didn’t want to think, only to be, to feel my beating heart which gives life to my body, like the trees that provide a pulse to the planet.

I stood looking into the blanket of darkness which laid beyond the evergreen branches. My headlamp provided just enough light to see the white snow, wonderfully taken with the roaring winds, blowing across my field of vision.

I thought to myself: what sort of ancient world have the trees known? And what am I, one man, compared to them?

They’ve always been here as a crucial piece of the puzzle, as energy surges from the earth’s core through their deeply ingrained roots. But we, we’re here just passing through.

Henry David Thoreau wrote of being lost in the woods in Walden:

It is surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Not till we are lost - in other words - not until we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

I tried to imagine if I was truly lost and alone. I can’t begin to know what it would be like to fight for my survival in the wilderness, not knowing if I’d ever see civilization again.

That moment of consideration was intimidating in a way. But looking into the dark depths, I felt an incredible sense of freedom.

Not until we have lost the world do we begin to find ourselves, writes Thoreau. What does he mean to lose the world?

Thoreau left the city of Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 to explore life by Walden Pond. In his day, to be out of touch with civilization meant no time at the tavern gossiping or spending time in church surrounded by like-minded people.

In our day, to be out of touch with society means to be off social media, the internet, and, like in Thoreau’s time, out of the constant rat race to get ahead.

When I stood solitary in the woods with my heart beating in my chest, I felt a connection between my innermost being and the natural world, a bond which I imagine caused Thoreau to write Walden during his times in the woods.

The soul which gives us life will always find a connection, if we’re willing enough to seek it. We’re never alone, for we’re all interconnected beings of planet earth. 

Nature provides perspective — it always has, and it still must. Our problems seem trivial compared to the vastness, perfection, and sheer beauty of what’s out there beyond every horizon.

We must take the time to get lost and appreciate its power, for connecting with nature means connecting with all of history and who we are as human beings.

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