Friday, July 8, 2011

camp soul

Mt Sneffles peaks from behind the swaying evergreens. Tall and majestic, the contrast between Sneffles and our “lowly” valley camp spot on the edge of the meadow gives you the sense of a lower elevation than the known 9000 feet of the Dallas Divide. But, don’t let the weakened contrast and Sneffles less-than-impressive name fool you. Sneffles still boasts 14,000 feet and patches of snow in July.
Somehow, the aging Boss Hog (aka our embarrassingly-loud-beeper-in-reverse-circa-1993 conversion van) made it all the way up the lonely, dirt road to our ideal camp spot. We ventured all this way to strip away some of the clutter from our lives, making more space for the soul. Envisioning more soul in the everyday experience. Playing trolls on a little two logged bridge. Claiming portions of creek as six or eight or ten-year old real estate play properties. This is my house from this tree to that rock. Wading bare footed in barely melted mountain water til tiny fish startle you into racing your crocs for fun. Puffing dandelion seeds into the breezy light air. Finally getting a fire going after a long rain with wet, still-green wood. Hiking trails through a Yarnell sized botanical playground. Leading pet Llamas around Teepees and meadows yellow.
When it comes down to it, the clutter strips more readily and more drastically if you’re a kid. Fully engaging the rocks and caterpillars and matted, dreadlocked Llamas seems to become more difficult as we age.
Even so, up here among the clouds and flowers there is time to think. Time to ponder. Time to reconnect with all things natural, which few of us do enough. The machinery of life and concrete jungles begin to slip away. Stephen Harrod Buhner describes our disconnect from nature as western post-enlightenment thinkers in his book, The Lost Language of Plants:
Once the Universe becomes a machine, no longer alive, once human beings are defined as the only intelligent life-form, a unique kind of isolation enters human lives, a kind of loneliness that is unprecedented in the history of human habitation on earth. It is a source of many of the emotional pathologies people struggle with. In addition, people begin to judge themselves internally, to identify their level of value according to how much or how well they think. Any internal expressions, perceptions, or thoughts that come from older epistemologies—that are based primarily on feeling or intuition or aliveness in the Universe—they label as unscientific, irrational, unreasoning, or illogical. Such thoughts and perceptions, it is assumed, have less value, are based on improper assumptions about the nature of reality, and are therefore something to be discounted, dismissed, degraded. This dynamic has become so ingrained that people routinely monitor and censor perceptions that are contrary to universe-as-machine. And so people cut themselves off from the Universe in which they live; they become passengers on a ball of semimolten rock hurtling through the Universe. They internally denigrate and deny their most basic experiences of the livingness of the world in which they live, their connection to it, and the importance of that connection. The interior wound…
And so I sit watching, pondering and healing for a time. Struggling to reconnect as I disconnect from from the hamster wheel. Meditating on the biophilia infused words of Buhner and learning large from three small teachers that have no idea what soul is, yet live with soul so much of the time.


  1. Do you think they shed the clutter more quickly because they are younger and have less? We went to the beach recently for our anniversary and I felt like it took the first half of the trip for me to shake off my stuff and just Be There.

  2. I think the lesser clutter is part of it and yet not all of it. I think their imaginations save them, taking them more fully to another place. In their play, they are able to abandon themselves to such a degree that they forget much of the real-world shit. Their imaginary play is almost akin to meditation and if I had to hazard a guess, it might have similar health benefits. Perhaps, the ill health among many children now is not so much attributable to the usage of video games themselves, but rather that the high volume of video gaming takes the place of this kind of imaginative play and fosters a lack of imagination and creativity? (an interesting but purely speculative thought). Thanks for your comments.

  3. Children live much more fully in the moment. The more literate we become, the more self-conscious we become (identifying levels of value based on how well we think [about every other moment, ostensibly], according to Buhner), the more every other moment weighs in on this one, requiring this "shakedown" to enter the moment on the beach, or under the shadow of the mountain, or sitting at the table with another person.

    In reality, I feel as if children don't enter another place at all (with their imaginations), but, much like adults who use their imaginations, they more fully enter where they are. Sort of the way good writers rename the ordinary to show it to the reader anew. Not as an escape, but as an interpretation of what we already know, of where we already are.

  4. Good point, Joe. Perhaps I projected my own adult need "to escape" from the real world onto them--seeing it as escaping into the imagination, when in reality it is being present. Do you think this ever breaks down, where it ceases to be a living more fully in the moment? And if so, under what circumstances is imagination no longer a being present?