A Soul Full of Nature
By Tim Corcoran
Conservationist and outdoor guide Tim Corcoran really "groks" the heart and soul of the wilderness experience, and reading from his book is almost like hearing campfire stories from Jack London, Thoreau, Colin Fletcher, and Ram Dass all rolled into one. We suspect that environmental leaders would be more effective if they stopped debating political opponents and took them on outdoor retreats instead, with Tim as official guide. Tim is founder of Headwaters Outdoors School, a longtime OPEN EXCHANGE lister, listed under Fitness & Sports. The following excerpt is adapted from Tim's new book, Growing Up With A Soul Full of Nature, reprinted here by permission.
We were never taught to respect our intuitive feelings. As a matter of fact, I remember quite the opposite when I was a kid. I remember adults telling me that a hunch is not a fact and the world is based on fact. Gratefully, that all seemed to change in the late 1950s, and certainly the 1960s was all about dropping out and getting in touch with our inner selves.
I think I was able to key into inner knowingness and intuition very early. I became hyper-aware of my environment and subsequently very aware of my feelings. I found my release and my peace in nature where I felt more at "one" with everything wild, than with people. I felt that God had talked to me through the spirit of plants and animals and I felt the mystery. I have always trusted my inner knowing and intuitions, and I have always been rewarded with rich experiences.
The physical beauty of the high sierra has always struck me. In middle school I hadn't hiked above tree level very much. When I had finally talked my dad into taking me to my teacher's special fishing spot, I could feel a tingling on the back of my neck. I knew when I got there how sacred a space it was. It was an amazing amphitheater. The few trees that were there grew out of the cracks and were low and gnarly looking, finding survival and life in the harshest of environments.
Because the climb to this special place was not often taken by people back then the wildlife was abundant. I imagined that Lewis and Clark and the other great adventurers who traveled the great expanse of America before it was settled, had the same visions of wildlife, though their visions were far more populated with all kinds of animals. As I climbed I pretended that I was the first person discovering this part of America. I was the first human to see these white, granite peaks where the marmots, deer and mountain lions prowled for food.
The ragged edges of stone melted into green meadows and wet lands, filled with the deafening croak of the frogs. Snakes slithered along the banks easily catching their singing prey, while golden eagles, hawks and falcons flew above waiting for just the right moment to dive for their dinner. I had died, and each step was taking me closer to heaven. The grandeur of the little creeks filtering out of the glaciers, and the banks of melting snow with wildflower sprouts popping through the snow filled me with such happiness that I would sometimes role around in the grass screaming with joy. I couldn't remember ever having such a strong connection to the earth than at that moment, and I knew that I had had some really strong connections. But this, this was ecstasy, and I was drunk on the earth's vibrating energy and color.
This is the place where I also really learned how to gather food or sustenance for the soul. We know how to harvest food from the earth. Some of us know how to identify wild edible plants that would feed us if no backpack food were available, or as a way to augment our backpack supply, yet, how many of us know how to feed the soul?
We all appreciate a beautiful sunset or a full moon. Most people like to stroll along manicured paths that take us through gardens or woods, and some of us even like to get off the path. These are all things that connect us momentarily to nature and to the mystery of a world, of a universe that is larger than just us. But feeding the soul is about gathering the spirit and essence, the "medicine" of a place and of things. It's about sitting and looking at nothing and everything. It's about wandering with no destination in mind. Sometimes as you wander you feel so absolutely connected to that place that you wonder if you might have dreamed it into existence.
I have experienced incredible rainbows. I have walked paths in the wilderness with wild animals that chose to be in close proximity to me, rather than run away or hide. I have felt the cry of birds that echoed deep inside me. These moments are sacred moments in nature. They are the earth's life force letting us know that we too belong. All of those experiences are a part of who I am now. They have come into me and as a result I share that energy with everyone I connect with. We all do that. We are the sum of all those rainbows, sunrises, sunsets and sacred moments that we stop and take in.
How many sacred moments have you experienced? The beauty of the soul feasting on nature is that there is no right or wrong and you can't over eat. Nature is the great teacher with no agenda, no dogma and plenty of room for everyone. Nature teaches us that when we humans remove ourselves from the web of life, we lose control. We get crazy and anxious. Right now, Mother Earth is trying to teach us that as her body heats up, our food source, both physical and spiritual, will become extinct. Some of us are listening and taking action, but sadly not enough yet to make her better.
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