Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bathing and Meandering in the Out-of-doors

I have developed a habit out of necessity. I do not know how my life would be if this new habit were not so because I am living this and learning to love it with unforced ease. I was introduced to the concept of wilderness bathing by a spiritually-connected friend in North Carolina a few months ago. Ever since this abstraction crossed the outer known limits of my mind, I have idled on what it meant fully in my life; until recently that is. Last evening, while chatting with my dear friends and roommates - the Halliwell brothers, the idea of a wilderness bath was brought to discussion once again. We three, in polite unrestrainedness, all exclaimed(!) how invigorating the wilderness is when we are privileged to experience its colossal love.

For Pete and Ryan, they had ventured often into the backwoods of Jackson Hole, WY to bathe near where they lived in years past; for me, my 4+ months spent on the Appalachian Trail seemed to fit the bill of needed hygiene. In these physically separate, yet allied experiences, all three had sampled the warm, relaxing aurora of the wilderness bath (bubbles optional). I say sample because to truly bathe, one must continue living the life, the cleansing day-in; day-out. Being that our conversation is past-tense now, it is hard to speak for the Halliwell brothers, but I feel that my sentiments to that affect would mirror theirs: when immersed in the loving waters of Mother Nature, one experiences a sense of inwardness, dimensionally-deep and profound in its staggering feeling; voids created only to be filled with awe, inspiration, and wonderment. 

Current research being studied in support of wilderness bathing affirms hand-fulls of medical benefits; including, but not limited to: lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels (in diabetes patients), and a decrease in stress-related hormones - as a result of passively inhaling soil bacteria and other microorganisms in the wilderness; increased production of white and red blood cells (sunlight induced), cholesterol conversion in your skin to Vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption (think strong, dense bones), and finally a refreshing lift in people's moods (especially when in proximity to water). Though, don't just take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding. Take this excerpt from my recent adventures last week:

* * *

Sitting in the woods upon a downed tree, up the gulch and across Highway 6 from where I live: through scrub brush and sage I have traveled into the Aspens and pines: lush green Spruces of some sort - my time and exact knowledge spent working at the Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania 4 winters ago escaping me. Easily forgetting, or trying despite the narrow swath of audible calamity that is the major through fare of Interstate 70, from the direction which I had came. Sitting and listening to nature around me: this space, the contrasting forgettable-ness of human society, at least for an afternoon. Good for the soul, the spirit, body and mind!

When I first released into this grove of Aspens, the wind noticeably increased directly to my forefront. The trees gently rocked and swayed upon their off-white colored bases, issuing creaks and groans - perhaps alerted to my presence. In this particular moment, intuition - that loving and subtle voice of guidance - spoke. She whispered to me just below my consciousness:

'Open yourself, ye who cometh to this spot!; what are your intentions!?'

Desiring to open and share, beckoning willingly to her inquiry, I opened my heart - spreading my arms wide to let the wind enter my soul, my existence. I half-expected to feel different after such but didn't as I proceeded to the downed tree-turned-weary-hiker's-seat. Resting on my haunches, recollecting in this, my journal, I realized the nature of my intentions in that moment: impure - selfish in their desired outcome; unlike that which is all around me here and now in this nature space. Surely, I am to leave today - returning to the human society in which I belong - having been taught a subtle lesson.

Still recollecting my thoughts, like a squirrel collects and sorts nuts, fuel for winter, I recreated the meandering hike up to this space, thinking as I scribble: Mother Nature places - for good reason - obstacles in our path. In this case, scrubby brush and trees, tight in their coupled occupancy of space; downed trees laying this way and that, providing essentially necessary organic material for the fellow organisms come spring time and new growth. Barriers requesting that those proceeding in love enter; turning, otherwise, those not ready for this discourse back, towards the human association from which they came. 

I think of bulldozers and other human-created machines, that, in their soul-less existence, do not, could not answer or beckon to Mother's request of intention. What is it like to run, to rule one of those beasts, as it tears its way over and through life; ending, terminating. Tis just a job that pays, and that reveals why it happens; at least in one case amongst many. 

I then think of cutting into an apple. With sharp paring knife in hand, given to me by my mother 4 years ago, I dissect the apple into unintentionally unequal halves - revealing the innards that will be cut out before consumption. Committing such discards to a compost, as to assist in renewing the cycle of life and growth that I, we are a small part of; a seemingly insignificant but important action, I feel. 

Bulldozer and Kinfe: two similar exterminators - finite in their end results; though, contrasting in their approach to balance. Ahh, to live in balance; that which we as a human society are not doing very well. Wow. What an unfortunate notion. 
I wonder: will it change? 

Hmmm. Hard to say. I feel, sitting here in nature, guided to an answer of yes. Mother will balance her Kingdom, and everything in it. However, we need to assess how we may organically assist in this, before her temperament runs out. 

* * * 

Forgetting once again what is it I had written in those moments of passive scrubbing, I recall now why it is that I have formed a new habit: to ride my bike to and fro work. Out of necessity for the vehicle that I used to call Freedom Jr.; no longer residing in my possession. In this human-powered transportation of myself, I feel reconnected - on a daily basis - to nature, regardless of sunlight, moonlight, or starlight; warm, or sub-zero temperatures. Connected. To the Eagle River rolling along the bike path, teeming on its course towards the bigger, grander Colorado River; coupled, with the wind upon my smiling-stupid, clean-shaven-for-work face. Undivided. United! 

Near Lake of the Clouds; White Mountain National Forest, NH. 
Nature, that thing: perhaps out your back door; at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the country; the organic promenade that isn't a leveled terrace of black top with neatly spaced trees and bushes hinting-yet-failing at natural surroundings; a memory perhaps not quite so vivid as what you received in gifts last Christmas. But maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe the love has already begun to reach you, and your understanding and immersion is on-course with the catharsis that you, I, we! all need do. Like the pile of laundry on my bedroom floor, I, too, am in need of a reminder to go bathe; just ask my sister Stephanie. I suppose I've attempted to ease its inclusion in my daily life by choosing to ride my bike, to human-power myself; to me-power my human-ness. Or, to choose options that maximize efficiency in natural-resourced-fueled transport; like ride-sharing.  

Ohh, tis enough from me; though, how I do plead you, I, we, to heed this call of love enunciating, yearning-to-scream, from the relative distances of nature. Experiencing the full lull and complete care of nature, with nothing but a creasing smile upon our naked, loved-filled faces (with maybe a towel near by to dry off).  

In loving support to you in your steps towards the bath tub of tubs,

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