From desert towers to meandering canyons carved from glaciers; mountains risen from tectonic plates crushing together, no matter how you look at it, natural beauty wildly perseveres. To see the geography is astounding. To comprehend its survival is to greet your own resiliency, for we are not inanimate objects placed on solid ground solely to exist. We are here to learn everything we can, but more than that, we are here to experience every emotion made available to our human souls. The vast spectrum dips and sways in lightness, dances through rainstorms and skates through icy circumstance.
The Enchantments don’t have as long a history as some mountains. It’s estimated that they appeared during the late Eocene Epoch, tens of millions of years ago, but they are still young. The area wasn’t surveyed and mapped until the early 1900s, when Albert Hale Sylvester was dispatched by the United States Geological Survey. The first climbs didn’t occur until the 1940s and since then, it’s been an area much coveted by lovers of the outdoors. Naturally, the area attracted us. Perhaps that area was as young as we are.
I used to take a lot for granted. People would tell me I was living a lucky life, that they were experiencing the world vicariously through me and how amazing everything must be, but I did not feel lucky. Because at my core I did not love myself, because I was stuck, scared, and did not feel much of anything at all. So when I was talking with a dear friend and she mentioned the Enchantments; when we looked up the permit lottery and discovered it had opened for applications that very day; when we both filled out an application and we both received an email confirmation that we’d been granted a wilderness permit; I felt pleasantly surprised at best. Maybe I felt a small amount of satisfaction too, and a gentle eagerness to reunite with friends who had moved away. Mainly it gave me purpose. It gave me blessed distraction by making me spend time necessarily preparing for the adventure. But beyond that, the trip gave me relief… It gave me something to look forward to…. Spending time in the wild. For in the wild is where I have rediscovered the very best parts of myself. But I have realized those very best parts exist in any safe environment.
I chose to not bring my journal. I didn’t bring a sketchbook and I didn’t bring approach shoes. I was going backpacking with three dear friends in the Enchantments, and I figured that anything I learned was going to be in their company, and anything I hadn’t figured out I would figure out in conversation with them. It was true that we spent time solo. But overall, the overarching choice was choosing to be with each other: no anxiety, no to-do lists, just ease in companionship and the shared desire to explore together- where might these dusty trails and emotional platitudes deposit us once the trip ended? I learned to appreciate the time we had together, for although we all once lived in Boulder, CO, life has taken us in new directions- to new geographies and new homes far from one another.
There are so many combinations of good things to try when you’re healing. And there are so many patterns that inevitably appear once you start changing. Pay attention to the things that make you feel the way you want to. Pay attention to the things that don’t.
“We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear, From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings,
Run like hell, my dear,
From anyone likely to put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.” -Hafiz
Some things are easy to run from. But other things freeze you. Choices can paralyze you. I remember a seemingly agonizing moment where one part of me wanted so badly to stand on top of a pass that would have taken an entire day to complete. I wanted to because hiking for hours in order to stand on the summit of a tall mountain used to be the most effective method I had of coming home to myself: feeling present, utterly at peace, safe in my body: surrounded by absolutely nothing that I couldn’t protect myself from. But that day I chose to be with my girlfriends, swinging in a hammock above an impossibly turquoise glacial lake. That day I chose to sit in slow, pristine stillness instead of losing myself in wild abandon. For I finally had figured out that getting to the top doesn’t always mean you were present along the way. I had finally learned that the epic view is peanuts compared to how you see yourself and who you surround yourself with.