In the Wild Spaces

In the wild spaces, cell phones are rendered useless and clocks become irrelevant. Communication is side by side or face to face. Emoticons do not exist. Stickers are spiny green plants that cling to your pants if you wander too far in the woods. IMG_9005 (1280x853)

In the wild spaces, you have to shake off the unease with silence. You listen to what sounds like nothing, and realize you are wrong. Nothing turns into birdsong and wind, mosquito buzz and the creaking of trees.

In the wild spaces, you think in terms of survival. What to drink. When to eat. Where to sleep. There is contentment in the elements of this cycle, and a simple joy in passing the time between. To swim. To paddle. To fish. To doze. IMG_8902 (1280x853)

In the wild spaces, you find confidence and humility to be necessary bedfellows. Believe in your ability to do what needs to be done, but defer always to the Creator, who knows best. Trust that sometimes lakes will be calm, reflective as glass. Other times, they will spit and splash, and heave dark waves at the bow of your canoe. Everything depends on your response.

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In the wild spaces, you are allowed to be unreachable. This is a peculiar sort of relaxation, a quick cut, knife to rope. It is hard at first, and your hands might twitch. Guilt might whisper behind one hand. This is okay. Move on. Filter and boil your water, and take a moment to watch how the heat-streaming bubbles look like strings of pearls. You may have never noticed this if someone distracted you. IMG_8930 (1280x853)

In the wild spaces, you eat simply. There is no boredom in this. Hunger is the best seasoning, the freshest herb.

In the wild spaces, you do not fear water or dirt. Shoes get wet. Pants bear evidence of kneeling and sitting on what nature offers. All of this means nothing, as long as your body can still function.

In the wild spaces, you contemplate the meaning of the word wild. Crazy. Erratic. Untouched. You look around and see none of this. Order exists in how the trees grow. Life bears evidence of cycle and routine. Rocks pile and smash on top of one another, as though moved by a gigantic hand. Wild takes on new meaning. Beauty. Concord. Wonder.

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29 weeks: the devil of expectations

ImageIt starts almost a year in advance. The planning. The emails. As they get closer, the lists start circulating. A packing party is set. Canoes are picked up, and someone find a vehicle big enough to hold six. And suddenly, my husband and his friends are gone, claimed as property of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness in Ely, Minnesota.

It’s serious business for a vacation, and they love every minute of it.

I understand why. My first trip to the Boundary Waters was at age six. Since then, I’ve returned with church, with family, with friends. It is where I first fell in love with the act of paddling, which feels meditation and worship all rolled into one beautiful, burning sensation.

When the water is smooth and evening falls, the lakes become the end of the world in the best sense. Nothing else matters – just the color of the sun sinking into the water, the cool touches of wind. The earthy, almost primordial smells of rock and pine, lake and dirt.

In the Boundary Waters, there are no expectations. Once the canoe hits the water, anything goes. You are at the whims of nature – wind, rain, fishing, fires, camp spots all become variable. Sure, you can expect to do the regular things like eat, sleep, breathe. But what you eat depends on what you catch. Where you sleep depends on what’s available. And how you breathe depends on how long it takes you to let go everything else and relax into the rhythm of being in the wild.

Wilderness has an inexplicable draw to me. I love the days, hours, minutes when I am surrounded by everything created and nothing man-made. It puts me in my place, reminding me of my role in this life as one who enjoys, stewards, worships. It’s the sense of awe I find at being outside of civilization, away from minivans and McDonalds. I become a person in a whole new context.

And when I arrive in a new context, I willingly lay aside my expectations. What is there to expect when everything is new? When you first set eyes on a lake you’ve never seen? When the fish on the end of your line comes from a world you can’t even imagine?

Expectation kills the wonder in our perspective.

It drags us down to the level of what we know: what we can do, who we can be, how we can live. Expectation makes me do things I wouldn’t otherwise do – stay up late folding the last load of laundry, manically sweep the kitchen floor, feel let down if someone doesn’t act or do what I think they should.

It takes away my freedom to enjoy what is. It replaces it with discontentment for what is missing.

After Jason left, I made it a point to put down all my expectations in the spirit of him being on his trip. I rested. I relaxed. I played when Ellis wanted to play, and cleaned when I felt like it. I cherished the time I spent with friends as equally as the time I spent alone on the couch with a book.

It was a lovely five days. Difficult, but lovely. (Hats off to single parents, or anyone who finds themselves in a solo parenting situation for a moment in time.) It was not easy.

But when my expectations were adjusted, it was doable. (Especially in the context of providing the ways and means for my husband to do something so important to him.)

And then I realized something. Why don’t I adjust my expectations more often? Why do I give myself license on “vacation”, but not in the everyday?

Pregnancy does a lot of strange things to a person. But in the late stages of the game, it makes me relax. The babies will come as they come. My body will labor as it will, and nothing needs to be controlled. It’s like riding a roller coaster with my hands clenched tight on the bar in front of me, until I finally realize that nothing bad is going to happen and it’s actually better to just let go and feel the ride. Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.

29 weeks and counting….