Garbage trucks, dogs barking, lights, traffic, noise, people. Emails, phone service, Wi-Fi, TV’s, screens, connection with the world. Chaos, hecticness, stresses consuming our lives. Day by day, week by week, month by month we bite off more then we can chew. Forty to Fifty hour work weeks are common ground for a majority of society. In attempts to simplify our lives we leave it all behind. Abandoning familiarity and comfort, exiting what is traditional for the masses we head out for the wild, where life is distilled down to the essence. There are simply less things to worry about, less on your mind. In the wild, I’ve noticed the little things. I’ve realized that pieces often slip through my fingertips, slide past my eyes and get lost in my mind. That’s why I search to “simplify.” Sleeping, eating, and water are the essence of life. Everything else can at times create unnecessary complexities.
We live in a consumptive society where it is so easy to have more then we need. Taking a step back and realizing that less is actually more can be an overwhelming, mind-altering realization. Grocery stores are filled with temptations and instant pleasures. In the backcountry you only bring what can be carried on your back.
It’s the little things like relaxing with good friends after a long days hike. It’s uniting with those friends under a good meal, and appreciating a full stomach. It’s passing around a bag of soggy animal crackers and eating each crushed crumb one by one. It’s when an onion is starting to go bad, and a group member at lunch asks, “Anyone want some onion?” Ears perk up, smiles spread across the small community at the brief existence of a surplus of onion. It’s a fresh sock day, taking the crusty, smelly socks off, and sliding your feet into freshness.
It’s hiking all day in a rainstorm, and appreciating the beauty that is rain in the desert. A dry desolate, landscape turns into something polar opposite, something spectacular. Starting with the cryptobiotic soil, lichen and mosses that turn green in the presence of that oh-so-precious water. The grasses, shrubs, and flowers all awaken to the presence of rain falling from the sky. It’s looking at a flower, filled with water on each pedal, and only then does the true power of rain show itself. The trees brighten green as well; stand just a little bit taller; happy to join the party that is rain.
It’s feeling the warmth of the sun on your face after a cold night or the rain dissipates, feeling grateful for the sun’s rays warming your soul. It’s the blue sky against red canyon walls, making the colors pop into your brain to forever be remembered. Its turning your headlamp off to a full moon, and letting moonlight guide you through your nightly deeds. As the moon cycles into darkness, hundreds of stars are revealed to the naked eye each night. It’s standing with your neck cranked upward far away from light pollution of society, where a deeper universe is uncovered. Thinking to myself, “I’ve never seen the cosmos so bright before…” It’s acknowledging the night skies ability to fill the brains capacity and struggle to digest all its taking in, feeling so small in such a profound world. It’s sleeping right under those starts, waking up at two in the morning, opening your eyes, seeing them right there smack up against you!
It’s the little things like having a working zipper on your sleeping bag to wrap yourself up into a cocoon for feelings of comfort and warmth. It’s having a warm fire at night to ease your mind from darkness, the crackling, shimmering, dancing flames more entertaining than any TV. It’s sitting by that fire with friends and companions late into the night, talking about hopes, dreams, passions, and realities for the future.
It’s having enough fuel for boiling water after a long day to make a hot drink. Sipping on tea, coffee or hot chocolate reminiscing on all accomplished during our last 12, 24, 48, 72 or thousands of hours before… Feeling the warmth inside your stomach, spreading through your veins, creating a sense of content for the moment. It’s living in the moment, for the moment, not trying to struggle through a miserable week, only for some brief time on the weekend. Making every day, minute, and second count knowing that your time in this world is limited. If always looking to the future for something different, easier, better, it’s easy to forget to live.
British philosopher Alan Watts bestows his views on how to live in happiness in today’s world where society makes us believe we have to follow the paths of others. He says, “its often easy to continue doing things you don’t like doing, in order to keep doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid! Better to have a short life filled with what you like doing then a long one spent in a miserable way.” Leaving behind complications, and added stresses, living the past 48 days doing exactly what I want to be doing has excited my soul with endless possibilities for my life.
It’s the little things like sitting listening… listening to what true silence sounds like. It’s strange to try and describe “silence,” it’s really something that you have to feel to believe. It’s using this silence to clear your mind, and become one with yourself and the natural world. It’s feeling deep in your heart the healing power that is nature. Anxiety, stress, depression, violence, anger, and unhealthiness all relieved from leaving a complex world behind.
It’s acknowledging how lucky you are to experience places so special. It’s feeling grateful for all these little things, and really taking time to notice what’s right in front of you. When life gets crazy, it can be hard at times to acknowledge what’s slapping you in the face. I’ve been ignoring a lot of things in my life, and since I left an old one behind, a new one picks up the pieces.
I remember one night specifically where simplicity was summed up in one phrase. After a gluttonous meal of nachos, Ben leans back in his chair, a smile spreading ear to ear, he states, “I’m tingly from the shoulders up, ahhh, its really really quite perfect.”