Walking in the mountains with light snow falling around me I began to think about the power of nature. Surrounded by the beauty of the mountain setting is breathtaking yet it the power and strength of nature is also very apparent. The trees, the bushes, the boulders, the water, the birds and the many animals that I cannot see thrive throughout the seasons and just seem to hold strong. The family of white-tailed deer roam calmly around finding food, resting and just being. This happens whether the weather is good or bad and without any help from the modern conveniences or technology of our human world. In fact, nature seems to do better without any interference from the human race.
As I walked along I felt very small in relation to the elements. Sure I knew that my hotel and the nice safe warm room was only a short and manageable distance away but I took myself on an imaginary trip further into the woods. It was there that I felt the vulnerability of being a human who has little skill or experience of being in a completely natural setting for an extended period of time. It is one thing to enjoy the beauty of this natural setting but it is quite another to be part of it.
I imagined what I might do if the snow became thicker and the path was no longer clear. Would I be able to find my way back? Having grown up with snow I know the power that it has to obliterate our way forward and to make a simple route an impossible trek. What skills would I use to determine the most appropriate direction back to civilization? This made me think about how we take Mother Nature for granted and do not always acknowledge her ability to put a stop to our forging ahead, no matter what. I knew that the trees and the deer would not be stymied by the snowfall but I could be. Do we really consider the natural elements as we go about our business? Do we respect nature and attend to its flow or do we impose our timetables on nature?
My imaginary trip had me encounter wild life that may or may not be happy to meet me. Again do I know how I should respond in this chance meeting? Cute little squirrels and even the smaller white tailed deer are one thing but what about bigger animals? Sure I have read that you should make noise so as not to come upon an animal unexpectedly. I have also read what you are supposed to do if you see a wolf or coyote or a bear but once the flight and fright response really kicked in I am not so sure I would remember much of what I had read. Again I was left feeling somewhat unprepared and vulnerable.
Although not a cold day by winter standards I also imagined how I would keep myself warm if I was stranded in the woods. I have made many a fire over the years but usually in ideal situations, not in a snow filled woods while freezing and fearful. Once again I thought about how we take so many things for granted. As we hear talk and talk about depleting sources of fuel and dawdling progress in establishing alternatives to oil and gas perhaps we should also be more mindful of our ability to stay warm and be cognizant and careful with the use of our current fuels.
My imaginary trip deep into the woods snowballed and had my thoughts rolling fast and furiously. Thoughts about water, food, shelter, darkness, companionship, and everything else we can easily take for granted and that would be so much more difficult if we were stranded alone in the woods. This make-believe adventure was not so much fun.
I decided to stop my imaginary trip and commit to being mindful of all those things that I easily take for granted: my access to food and water, my comfortable shelter, my ability to purchase fuel and use it to keep warm, the availability of fuel and electricity, my access to transportation and my relationships that make life fun and worthwhile.
I also decided to shift my focus and I returned to the enchantment of the beautiful setting that I had the privilege of being within. Once again I found myself wandering in the spectacular woods in the mountains and it was then that I noticed it had stopped snowing. Magic.
Irene McDermott © 2012