When we climbed into our little tent and put our heads down on make-shift pillows of clothes, I thought I'd fall right to sleep, I was exhausted. The temperature was perfect, the air clean and fresh with a slight breeze through the tent. As my eyes were closing, I became super aware of the sounds of the night around me, remembering that I was in bear country. It took me hours to fall asleep, jolting awake after incorporating the sound of Bob's snore into a dream about a bear outside the tent. Eventually, I fell into a deep sleep and was disappointed to wake up to the early morning light coming into the tent, my head full of busy-ness.
I thought that within a few hours of being in the wild mountains of Montana, my head would be clear of my every day activities -- but it wasn't. Despite spending hours wandering through the spectacular wilderness, my mind was still stuck in overdrive. I woke as I always wake at home, with my head full of thoughts about what would come next, what I forgot to do at work, excitement for our next musical performance, upcoming travel plans, and thoughts of what our boys might be doing at that moment by themselves at the house.
Why couldn't I clear my head? I closed my eyes, trying hard to think of nothingness, to listen intently to the sounds around me, to smell the air and nearby wild flowers. It must have been more than 20 minutes that I tried to relax back into my sleeping bag, getting more and more frustrated with my inability to simply be there, enjoying the peaceful environment.
I finally turned to Bob and suggested we get up, get the food bag from the tree, and make coffee and breakfast.
I've been here before; many years ago I was on my yoga pad at the end of a class, trying to get into the ending meditation provided by the instructor. I was filled with frustration. Every time I focused and dropped myself into the meditation, I'd find my mind wandering all over the place, flitting from one topic to the next. That was the moment, after about 10 years of trying, I realized I didn't like yoga.
That first morning in the woods, focusing on action helped; I was hungry and immediately set off to pump some water for our coffee. I never would have thought flies, especially the biting kind, would be a welcome distraction. But there I was, swiping at the flies landing on my legs and starting up the little burner for coffee, no thoughts buzzing in my head but the need for coffee and oatmeal.
We packed up for a day hike and headed upstream, bushwhacking through the dense, lush forest among wild roses, Indian Paintbrush, elk scat, mushrooms, and dead trees littering the ground. Stopping along the rushing river periodically for Bob to cast his nymph, hoping for a brown trout for dinner, I had the camera poised for my own catch for the weekend. It was mostly quiet, which, in bear country, isn't really a good thing, so I hummed and sang some of the songs we were working on for our next gig.
My head wasn't clear, but I was relaxed.
By the time we hiked back out to the car after two nights, I was tired but not exhausted. I felt strong, healthy, and comfortable in my skin, even though I smelled like I hadn't bathed in three days. I unloaded my backpack into the car and opened the cooler we had stashed inside, pulling out my favorite local brew, Lewis and Clark Brewery's Prickly Pear Pale Ale. My head was finally clear.
Driving back through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, I turned on my phone to let our boys know we were on our way, and to suggest they clean up evidence of junk food binging. It beeped and beeped as the signal came on to retrieve missed calls and text messages. I wanted to ignore it, but the pull of connection was too strong. I read the messages.
I really didn't miss anything. So I put the phone down and didn't pick it up again until we unloaded the car back at our house.
I had no intention of looking at my computer when I got home, and managed to leave it closed until late into the evening when I had to review a document for a client.
It took me three days to disconnect from my electronic devices and clear my head. That can't be a good thing.
A lot has been written about humanity's disconnect from nature as a result of our addiction to our electronic devices. That disconnect has wreaked havoc on our ability to safely spend time in nature and effectively connect with people around us.
If we don't disconnect from screens and reconnect with people, ourselves, and our natural environment, and find ways to embrace the in-between space, we will lose our ability to connect in any real way with our own humanity.
What will you do to change this trajectory in your life and the lives of your family and community? How will you adjust your patterns to slow down time? If you don't, you'll miss out on all kinds of stories to share. Enjoy the in-between, be a storymaker.