The tall swaying trees, the rush of cold water. The salty breeze and the seagulls cawing. Though they are separated by miles of land and thousands feet in elevation, these two places have one thing in common. Everything from the icy peaks of mountains to the soft ebb of the tide is solace to me. They calm me. They take me away into their own world apart the bustle of dirty cities.
The experience that enlightened me to this fact came two summers ago. It happened when we had sailed to a small, uncharted island in northern Washington State near the boarder to Canada. Although it was June, the morning water remained icy cold and the air was a comfortable coolness in the shade. We hiked for just under half an hour before a beautiful cove revealed itself to us. From our vantage point on top of the stone sides we could see the morning mist gathering in the low point were the beach met the water. The tall majestic trees were a dark green until a sharp line of shadow cast half of them into sunlight. I looked up, and I could see similar trees towering above me.
A sudden peace overtook me as the wind started to wave the tops of the trees in circles. I stood, still. The wind began to pick up bits of dark dirt. It was growing in strength. I watched and waited until the once placid water was whipped into choppy waves with white crests. As the wind whirled around me, my thoughts swirled with it. I heard nothing, and although the wind howled I was pensive. Seconds felt like hours, and hours felt like minutes.
Nature was so elemental, rapidly changing from stillness to a blustering gale. It touched a part of me that identified with this fundamental earth. Although wind blew around me, it was still, calm and quiet inside me. It was a time when I challenged the walls of my mind, waiting for an epiphany. It didn’t come to me—or did it?
The experience that caused my “revelation” was during our hike, but the understanding came that night aboard the Carlyn. Her mast swayed in the gale and I could hear the creak of the anchor that held her fast. I wondered what would anchor me during the storms of my life. I searched for an insight into my own life that I could draw upon. Something that I could always rely on, always resort to when I had nothing else. I was only thirteen then, however during that night I understood that wilderness calms me. My epiphany was not that wilderness is my solace, but that wilderness has always been essential to my solace. What enlightened me was recognizing that I had realized a simple truth fundamental to my life. I am still only fifteen, but I know wilderness causes me to become the most peaceful I have ever been, and this I will always believe.