On the open road, my tears flowed like the ocean.
The weight of the pandemic came bearing down on me, and the sight of closed cities and warning signs dropped my spirits. In all the craziness, while we watch people fight for their health and sometimes their lives, I realized the world is now going through a great loss. A collective loss that will take years of recovery.
Still, I needed to breathe the fresh air. I needed to spend time in the light. I needed to seek out “The End of the Earth,” and come back with newfound perspective. So, I took exception. I resolved to hit the road for one epic wilderness trip during the global pandemic.
I donned a mask, I doused my hands in sanitizer, and I gloved up at gas stations. Though I reluctantly attended my first pandemic wedding, I saw the corona-colored stain on those white chairs outside the country club, and after that, I turned my back on large groups to avoid spreading a deadly virus to anyone at risk.
It was in the wilderness, when I was alone in the woods with my dog, that I crossed a bridge that would lead me into the unknown, guiding me through the depths of my wandering soul. The gloves came off. I removed the mask. And I bared myself to the hemlock trees.
I discarded the hard moments, the personal conflicts, and the judgement. I threw off the stress and pressure of life in these times — not to mention overcoming the pain of my own divorce in isolation, or running crisis communications during one of the deadliest crises in U.S. history. For the first time since February, I put my foot to the floor, in an attempt to travel as far as my ‘Sunspot’ would take me.
And I cried. Openly. With vulnerability.
No one should have to endure losses like these. Yet, here we are. Only this time, we’re in it together.
Under the colossal evergreens of the Ottawa National Forest, I literally fell to my knees in awe — and also, I fell to my knees from the deep mud that pulled me down as I hiked up the steepest incline I’ve ever seen on a trail.
After all, time has made me bolder. More independent. More daring. More eager to find wonder than ever before.
Every moment was so painstakingly beautiful. Every thought carried so much hope, sorrow, and complexity. It wasn’t so long ago that some of these forests experienced their own pandemic, with an avian bird flu reducing the lovely sounds of nature to silence. Yet, here stood the old-growth trees. Branches fanned out to greet me, and glimpses of sunlight danced on the edges of the hardwood.
Beyond me, the trees continued to grow. Whether they thrived on hard rock, lifted their roots to wilderness creatures passing by, or dipped into the pools of water that cascaded down the cliffs, they persevered. They lived on to flourish as one forest.
Maybe this is what it means to be unfiltered. Now, I’m inspired to take my shot. I want so desperately to make an impact during this terrible time.
Now, I’m going to try to write…