I have come to realize that there are very few things I need in order to lead a good life. This revelation was brought on by incessant amounts of mud and endless laughter as our group repeatedly and intentionally trapped ourselves in quicksand. The canyon walls strengthened our goofy energy and fostered patience and perseverance. After two weeks on the Dirty Devil, I have now determined that joy and resilience are my ultimate life goals, and I have come up with five steps to help me achieve these dreams.
Step 1: Embrace Your Inner Child!
Asking questions and opening the mind to all possibilities comes so naturally to children. As we grow up, American society emphasizes seeking answers and not questioning the status quo. Rediscovering my sense of curiosity and viewing the world through a lens of wonder and awe has been so refreshing – especially in this technological age where I am expected to have all the answers right at my fingertips. How did those rocks form? How did beavers make it all the way into this canyon!? Will we see them around the next bend? Asking questions and being OK with not knowing the answer immediately is a beautiful way to clear my mind.
Step 2: Leave Judgment and Worry at the Door
I don’t need to have all the answers right away! As a college student graduating after this semester there’s often a lot of external pressure to have the rest of my life mapped out as soon as I’m done with school. However, when surrounded by 200 million year old rock, my worries began to seem much more trivial, though trivial in the best way! Like sage teachers, the canyon walls force me to reflect and breathe. They have endless patience because they have truly seen it all. Being in the presence of such humbling entities makes me realize I have plenty of time to figure it all out.
Step 3: Develop an Eye for Patterns!
The canyon walls also make it much easier to notice the patterns and connections that exist in this wonderful system that is life. I can physically see and trace the path where water has carved into the walls over millennia and that has directly impacted which plant and animal species are living in the desert today. Many of our class discussions in this section have been focused on how to manage complex adaptive systems. In order to maintain a resilient system that can recover from disturbances, complexities need to be acknowledged and worked with. Instead of trying to simplify matters and force things into boxes, getting to know and understand each part of the system will help the system function more soundly in the long run.
Step 4: Find Your People!
I can face anything if I surround myself with people who push and encourage me to be the best version of myself, and this group has taught me that. Did I ever think that I would play shadow puppets and perform concerts on the canyon walls for two hours, no. But being part of this group, with all its creativity and silliness, has allowed me to get out of my head and ensures that I am always fully engaged in each moment. It is so freeing to be my authentic self, quirks and all, and finding my people has allowed my true self to flourish.
Step 5: Communicate!
The beauty of a great group of people is that it becomes remarkably easy to communicate. Hopes, fears, and questions can all be voiced without fear of judgment. This is a skill that I have struggled with my whole life, but one that is especially critical on something like a WRFI course, which is physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhilarating – but also exhausting at the same time. This newfound power in my voice has made me more resilient in that it has made me more determined to speak up about issues I am passionate about. I am looking forward to intentionally participating in ways that sustain me and bring me joy, while also sustaining the socio-ecological system we are all a part of.
As I sit here writing this in my tent, a sandstorm is occurring outside. I should really say inside too, because I currently have a small sand dune piling up around me. Am I worried? No! Watching mountain ridges form on my arms and legs really puts into perspective how powerful a grain of sand can be. I know that I can float with the wind and find my place, just as these fine particles found their way into my tent today. Am I laughing, definitely. I can hear people whooping outside and I can’t wait to join them.
Thank you Dirty Devil for always keeping us in the moment. Your mud may try to trap us, and your winds may whip our faces, but your life lessons are invaluable and we are beyond appreciative.