The wind was blowing, the freezing rain felt like continuous stings against my cheeks, my feet had gone numb over an hour ago. So numb now, that they felt as though fire was running through my veins from my heel to my toe. We were only about half way into our three mile hike at this point in the day. No matter what I did, I couldn’t think about anything besides the bitter cold. As we increased in elevation, the weather turned from rain, to sleet, to snow.
Finally around 1pm in the afternoon we arrived at our campsite. The wind began to pick up now that we were above treeline. In order to escape from the fury of the landscape, I constantly hid in my tent, counting down the hours until I could reside here for the night and find whatever heat my sleeping bag had to offer. Around 4 pm, those assigned to cook for the day called out that dinner would be ready in under 10 minutes. My appetite quickly vanished when the reality of having to leave my shelter again set in. I grudgingly put on my soaking wet boots and five or six layers, and headed back out into the snow.
I scarfed down my pasta in order to get back to the tent as quickly as possible. While hastily eating my dinner, I began to look around and noticed the thin white blanket that coated the surrounding limber pines. The glistening flakes that reflected off their needles caught my eye in such a way that I began to forget about the freezing sensation coursing through my body. I then noticed Sarah running back and forth across the field, arms flailing, and smiling from ear to ear. I knew I couldn’t just sit here any longer. So, I began to run around as she did, exploring this hill that overlooked the bowl beneath a fog-covered ridgeline. As I ran from tree to tree, bush to bush, the feeling of misery and frigidity left me; soon the warm sensation of appreciation filled every portion of my body. I looked over this vast, beautiful landscape and was in absolute awe. The snow covered mountains looked like something out of a picture, and here I was right in the middle of it. No houses, no roads, just the wilderness and I.
As Karen Warren stated in her article “The Power and the Promise of Ecological Feminism,” from an ecofeminist perspective, one must look at nature with a loving perception rather than an arrogant perception. By attempting to beat the cold through an arrogant eye, my end goal was to conquer this landscape. I felt like hiding was the optimal way to beat the harsh weather. However, by the end of the day I felt such a strong love for this place that I was so fortunate to be in. With this now loving eye, I had come to truly care about this terrain which is so valuable, invincible, and so different from me. Appreciating this hilltop and accepting all it had to offer allowed me to become flooded with such happiness and contentedness. I no longer fought, but instead fully embraced co-existing with this wild and incredible terrain. An hour or two after my mood altering run, right before everyone went to bed and the light began to fade, I decided to walk up the side of the mountain. As the snow came down ever so gracefully, I sat down on a rock that overlooked our campsite and the ridgeline, closed my eyes, and resided there in silence and solitude. This sense of isolation allowed my mind to wander. I began to listen to the wind howling over the Big Snowies, and soon enough felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for my wonderful and loving parents who have always supported me and gave me the opportunity to be in this moment. Gratitude even for those in my life who put me down, because they allowed me to find the strength to get back up and prove something to myself. But most of all, I found gratitude for this cold snowy landscape. Every tree, every creature, every hillside off in the distance, and every snowflake that grazed my cheek brought me to self-reflection.
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed this ongoing pattern. When in the natural world, I feel as though I can remove myself from reality. All of the stress and anxiety that life causes begins to fade away with the wind. Out here I don’t have to worry nor do I have to hide any aspect of myself, I have nothing to prove. Nature never judges, and it will always reciprocate if treated with love, respect, and appreciation. Today is a day I will always remember, and I shall lay down in my sleeping bag eager for morning, ready to embrace whatever conditions this crazy and unpredictable landscape has to offer.