"It was not so long ago that throughout our entire lives, we had a direct and constant relationship with nature. / We were awoken by the first rays of light, and we would go to sleep shortly after nightfall. Every day, we'd spend long hours outdoors, our feet in contact with the earth. In the summer we'd work and stock up for the winter, and in the winter we'd rest and repair our tools. The rhythm of our lives was dictated by nature -- we were a product of our ecosystem, and entirely indistinguishable from it." Nicolas Langelier, founder and editor-in-chief of Nouveau Projet magazine.
I quoted the above because I simply can't re-write the same sentiment any more eloquently than Nicolas Langelier did in his Closer to the Land piece of Beside magazine (issue #1 - check it out, it's amazing). I left on my two month road trip with an idea of how it might generally go, but knowing that it was even more likely to happen in a way that I could never truly imagine. And so, it did.
Sleeping in my car, I first began to rise and fall with the sun - there was no disputing this. No window sunshades or curtains were going to keep enough of the desert sun and heat out past 7:30 or 8 am, that's for sure. I would wake up absolutely melting, and if I really wanted to hike, the best time to do so was early in the morning while the air was crisp and cool, and the trails were calm and quiet.
For two months, I learned a whole new rhythm: a natural, instinctive rhythm that had me planning my hours, days, routes and directions based on the sun, wind, rain and wildfires. I affectionately called it my road rhythm, but I know that it's as close to a true relationship with nature as I have ever experienced, and after a few weeks back in the city, sleeping in houses and sheltered by buildings, surrounded by grids of roads and routine, I really miss it.
Yes, I've been back for about three weeks. Aside from a few Instagram posts, I have fallen nearly completely off the map - maybe more so than when I was actually on the road. The truth is, the adjustment has been difficult. Trying to maintain a rhythm I felt so connected with and that felt so pure, in an extremely sheltered, urban environment hasn't been easy. I am finding it difficult to take things seriously - material belongings, fashion, most social constructs, long work hours, and watching other people struggle with sweating the small stuff.
The complexities of modern life were born of an attempt to simplify. Contrastingly, in the outdoors, simplicity is born of nature's vast complexities. Simplicity in the modern world is a complicated task, whereas complexity in nature is as simple as it gets. That contrast keeps me awake at night, and I struggle to maintain perspective. Bearing the most powerful burdens - how to stay alive and understanding why I was where I was - was a consuming task in the wilderness of America's vast and changing landscape. Staying alive takes on a very different meaning in an urban centre: how not to let work consume you, how to balance and maintain all of your relationships and on which grounds do each of them stand, if what you're eating, reading, or sweating aligns with ideals of perfection; these are all means of staying alive and understanding our place, but they are so confused and contrived. We think that our modern formulas and strategies will simplify our needs and create convenience, but all of that is feeling rather the opposite for me, now that I've returned.
Quickly, I have been lost again to schedules and routines; rules that dictate when I must be "on" or "off". Blinds are pulled, or lights are switched on when duty calls. I haven't watched the colours of a rising sun in weeks, for warehouse walls enclose me on mornings when I'm not trying to recuperate from being over-run. I've hardly written, haven't painted, my pace is furious. I miss crawling into my vessel at night, knowing that if I wake in the midst of things, the world will still rest around me (except for the mice, of course). I miss falling back asleep beneath reassuringly brilliant stars. I miss taking time to listen to the wind, or attending the colours of grasshoppers flitting about me on boot and hoof-beaten trails.
I miss knowing that every day held something new and marvellous for me, if only I were simply to follow it wherever it took me. Following a 9 to 5, five days a week is not apparently the same to me as following a trail or staying ahead of bad weather. I have spent the last three weeks digging deep, trying to understand how I can maintain my road rhythm in the midst of this urban confusion that I originally fled from. I think it could be there, might be possible, but what I can't decide, is if it's truly worth finding, knowing what else there already is out there for me.
"We were one with nature, and nature was one with us. There was no distinction between the atoms that made up our bodies and those that, several billions of years ago, had created the moon we'd watch hoist itself into the sky every night." Nicolas Langelier
Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.
First: Utah BLM Land 2017 | Second: Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park 2017 | Third: Moon-set in the Grand Tetons 2017