grace + gravity

Healing in the Outdoors



When you lose someone or something major - a significant other, a family member, a dream job, a beloved pet, or you've been through a bad break-up or accident - you know what loss feels like. Emotionally and sometimes it even feels like physically, a hole has been carved out within you. A void. You feel it in your stomach first: a dull, throbbing emptiness. Then it grows in your heart: a dark and endless absence that echoes all of your worst thoughts of loneliness, stretching its universe within you to unparalleled distances. The reversal of it's all-consuming presence is unfathomable, and in the stark silence, it claws at you. Being alone is unsettling, and in the dark of night, tucked in, awaiting your morning alarm, there is no escaping it. 


I've spent my fair share of nights alone, sobbing in the darkness, wrapped up in only myself. It feels like being trapped within everything, but somehow I feel utterly devoid, and that leaves me confused. I struggle to find solace. My tired, aching heart is lost, scattered and overwhelmed by its sudden, scrambled vastness. It can't settle in the midst of an ever-churning reality of alarms, schedules, priorities and habits. The hum is supposed to be comforting, I'm sure, but I find the lull to be unsettling and shallow, and so I lay awake.

I spend time outdoors for an array of reasons, but as both an introvert and an empath, its true and honest silence is where I find genuine tranquility, and time to heal. Among the trees, I am alone but I am true. Among the beach and ocean I am small but with purpose. Among mountains I am challenged, but I am humbled and if patient, I can be achieving.

It's not a disconnect that I crave in my hollowness; it's quite the opposite. The breeze in my hair, the sun on my cheeks and chest, the presence of a chittering chickadee, the brush of grass against my calves, the nimbleness with which the weather changes, the erratic but graceful appearance and dissipation of cloud cover - this is the very place in which I begin to heal the burden of feeling unwhole.

In my bed, the sudden lack of busyness is uncomfortable, and the void of people where people tend to exist is disheartening. The obligatory ritual of cease before rise and rise before cease seems insensitive to my condition. These are all traits, habits and circumstances that we have constructed for each other and ourselves. They come with expectations of grandeur and perfection. 

Outside, the rise and fall of waves, the sun and moon cycles, the presence of life and death, these are all natural, interconnected feats of none other than the very existence of themselves. They do as they do if or when they need to. They just are; the richest example of simultaneous effortlessness and purpose.

In my darkest, the thought of being empty or feeling alone is unfathomable. It's simply incompatible with the expectation of my daily emotional grind. But outdoors, I am exactly as I should be - quiet, attentive, careful, reflective, curious. It's okay to feel the sun or rain or wind and be alone with it all. Everything is exactly as it is supposed to be or meant to be, me included. It's okay to be weary or slow, enthusiastic or marvelous, sunny or gloomy.


"To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from." Terry Tempest Williams 


Perhaps the emptiness is not a lacking or absence, but rather a craving. As a victim of loss or tragedy, maybe what our stomachs and our hearts really need is a rich silence, one in which our soul can understand the purpose of slow, intentional gestures; a craving for quiet and openness in which to reflect. A pull to return to basic instinct; where we are little but mighty, and only one, but capable and bolstered. A place where when we see expanse, instead of feeling dread, what we recognize is simply beauty and opportunity.

Photos are my own. Please do not use or reproduce without my written permission.

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