One of my favorite things about climbing mountains and backpacking is being humbled in a way where I still feel like I belong. I stand on the mountain and feel my smallness. I see the routes that are possible and the routes that are not. I have to read the weather. There are times to climb and there are times to stay put. The weather dictates what is possible. It is when I am backpacking or hiking that I feel most at peace with the world being bigger than me.
That my role is to observe and surrender to what is coming.
I have rarely felt mad at the weather when I am really outside, and I come from a place with more extreme weather than here. I don’t feel the fear of uncertainty. I just wait until better weather.
But when things are bigger than me in the human world, I have much more difficulty being patient, and humble. I feel intense rage at things that are out of my control, especially when they are events that are being manipulated by people that have serious impacts on others..
Why? This virus is something that not one of us can control. Like the weather, viruses are a part of nature, they come and go. We develop a vaccine, protocols to keep ourselves safe, and do the best we can. And still the virus moves on reminding us that we can not always control our own destiny like we so wish we could… that we are the masters of our own universe.
While puttering around social media, I came across this wonderful post marking the 270th anniversary of Edward Jenner, the man who discovered the first vaccine for Smallpox. Here is an excerpt:
“Smallpox is one of the deadliest & most contagious diseases known to man. The virus killed over half a billion people in the twentieth century alone— three times the number of deaths from all of the centuries wars combined. In May 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the eradication of smallpox. This was an unprecedented event in history, signaling the first and only annihilation of a human disease. The victory—which saved tens of millions of lives— fulfilled the lifelong dream [of] Edward Jenner, who first tested his vaccine on 14 May 1796.” (1)
Wow, if that is one amazing reminder that we are biological beings subject to the same laws of any species of animal. (I also would like to mention that smallpox killed over 90% of the Native American population when Europeans brought it over to the Americas).
When I get lost in my own anxiety about the future I find it a very important part of self-care to find ways to remind myself that I am small.
That life is circular and that there are laws of the universe that I am subject to but also a part of, that somewhere I belong too. Sometimes, I find it reassuring to see a cat happy with a dead mouse in its mouth, or looking at a mountain and pondering the changes it has gone through over millennia, or watching the leaves emerge on the trees in the spring.
I’m not saying that makes life any less tragic than it is, because it is very tragic and sad. But there are times when I find solace in remembering that I am a part of this bigger cycle of life that has been going on for billions of years. I believe that learning to trust is one of my most important journeys on this earth.
I write this as just a gentle suggestion to get outside and sit by an old tree or rock and listen the stories it has to tell, ask the squirrel on your back porch what is important to her or maybe just watch some good ol’ David Attenborough.
- The Chirurgion’s Apprentice (Facebook Post, 17 May 2020, https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=3222863261087239&set=a.176574612382801)
Stephanie Boulton, MA LPCC (she/her/hers) is a private practitioner in the People House Community. Stephanie believes that healing results from expanding our capacity for meaningful connections and relationships. She has a background working with a diversity of people in outdoor settings and draws from attachment theory, body-based and experiential therapies, as well as ecological and feminist approaches. Stephanie’s website can be found at www.soulterracounseling.com or you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.