There are some places on earth that have survived civilization, some sanctuaries that are devoid of towering buildings, paved roads, stop signs, and artificial light. Places where the stars are clear at night and where only the sound of wind can be heard through the brush. The fresh scent of pine needles and the scent of musky, damp leaves replaces the overpowering smell of gasoline and hotdog stands. The call of loons can be heard in the quiet evening, and when the wind dies down, the water becomes as still as glass. So clear at times that under a bright blue sky, schools of fish can sometimes be seen at the bottom. Light flickers across the forest floor with the movement of leaves overhead, causing shadows to flee, and millions of birch, spruce, pine, and aspen stand guard over the rugged wilderness. Sunset lights the clouds on fire, splashing brilliant hues of red and gold across the horizon to paint the final masterpiece of the day before casting the woods into darkness so deep that only the moon and cold stars can light the traveler’s way.
The wilderness is determined to help you find your way, because it has been said that you have to lose yourself to find yourself. Cell phones lose service, and there are even places where minerals in the ground can cause compasses to go haywire. But I do not mean finding yourself in the directional sense. Sometimes you need to find a place away from the distraction of technology, politics, and societal expectations where you can have time alone, unencumbered by the pressures of life. A place where you can put down your façade and just be you, because frankly, pretending to be someone you are not is simply exhausting! Sometimes we all need a retreat away from the busyness of life, to collect our thoughts and get a fresh perspective, to refocus on what really matters in life and figure out what the things are in our lives that are only temporary frustrations.
The woods in northern Minnesota, just below the Canadian border, are my place where I most find myself, and even though I now live hundreds of miles away, I will still always find my way back home, even if it is only in memory.