It’s not always about getting somewhere

By Alex Radoaca, Founder of Mindful Wilderness and AU Guide

It’s easy to become goal-oriented in nature…to seek routes, mountain tops, speed, mushrooms, tracks, cool plants, animal sightings. So much of our daily lives are linear, upwards-oriented, sequentialized, and made visible into lists, plans, calendar events, social media posts, texts. There is both intense freedom and intense pressure in control. If someone wanted a linear story of your life, it would be easy to write.

And then there are the stories you have lived. The stories that cannot be separated from life. All the moments when you slowed down, looked down, fell and felt down into the magnetic energy of the earth. Something always lures us into paying attention; something always calls. And if we choose to follow our instinct to investigate, we find ourselves in moments of deep surrender…our surroundings turn bright and crisp, infused with the palpable and intense thrill of living. This is not the adrenaline rush of peak bagging. This is the oneness that lives and pulls us into the dirt. It invites us to take off our shoes and walk barefoot, to slow way,way down, and to touch, feel and receive sensations that cannot be put into words. One of the ways I was taught to go nowhere is to pay attention, listen, and create intention.

I don’t usually go into the woods without purpose, does anything? Wild life is all about energy: transforming energy, consuming energy, making energy…and the core of all energy is nourishment. That is what life seeks above all – nourishment. Plants seek CO2 from animals, light from the sun, micronutrients from the soil. People seek oxygen from the plants, nutrients from animal and plant bodies, and a deep relationship with their environment. What every good teacher will tell you is: all living beings seek connection, above all. We are in it together, woven, broken, burned, split, and re-woven and re-stitched into the web of life in infinite cycles of creation and destruction. Stepping into the woods is accessing the deep knowing that comes with millions of years of connection and belonging. And asking ourselves: how does this land want to be nourished, what is the nourishment it is seeking, what nourishment am I seeking? When we treat others like they want to be treated, we build trust, not just in others but in our instincts. Trust requires us to listen and pay attention. Last time I took my dog on a hike on Schunnemunk, the trails were screaming from foot erosion. So many paths of desire had been carved into the ground from traffic. There is no guilt in taking pleasure and creating paths in the woods. But there are consequences. And the rootlets, and the worms, and critters were asking for topsoil. And so I got my hands in the dirt and covered paths with mulch and leaf litter. I took my shoes off and dug my toes into the soil. I found water holes I never knew existed and areas covered in wintergreen berries. I found bear tracks in the mud and wild turkey feathers. I made wild salad. And in that process I felt nourished by the microbiome of the earth… soil bacteria is
the number one ingredient for gut health, and I needed to eat!

So, on your next adventure take a break, take off your shoes and see what needs nourishment and noticing. And you may find yourself on a spur-of-the-moment wander that others will never have known with stories you won’t be able to tell.

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