Intro: This piece offers some intimate insight regarding my mental health and how nature, specifically the Chugach National Forest (and Alaska’s surrounding forests), immensely enhanced my well being: emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I wrote this piece in partnership with the National Forest Foundation in honor of the It’s All Yours Campaign. This article was previously published and featured on The National Forest Foundation webpage which can be viewed here.
I used to find it hard to remember those times:
My childhood times.
My wild, untamed and undaunted times.
My running around barefoot, playing in the grass times.
My trail-trekking, rock-skipping, pond-scooping, tree-hugging times.
You know…. those times.
For nearly 20 years, I was convinced that I had to forget those times, that I had to completely relinquish my sense of innocence, erase every trace of my child-like wonder and trade it all in for the less-fun “adulting” time.
Years stacked upon years, grief stacked upon grief as pieces and fragments of me wasted away. The older that I aged, it became further evident that a life outdoors was no longer deemed “lady like” nor “morally acceptable.”
So, I suppressed my passion for the wild outdoors and remained complacent, stuck in a confined cubicle. I worked and worked and worked while starring blankly through the glass windows, longing for a taste of those wild times, secretly nursing an ache too deep for words. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago, when I made the radical decision to fully re-live and re-commit to those times, to fully live out my passion.
April of 2018, I broke free from the identity that the world had assigned me. I fought like hell to radically divorce myself from our cultures norms and to separate myself from being so conditioned to living a life that craved the approval, applause and acceptance of others.
I went to Alaska to resurrect, to be reborn, to awaken. My first summer in Alaska, I immersed myself in nature which comforted me with the warm embrace of peace and tranquility. The Chugach National Forest served as my true home, as I spent a majority of my summer relishing in the sounds of the murmuring birds, swaying grass, and rustling trees. It was in the depths of the national forest, that I allowed time to drift past me like logs on a lazy river. It was there…. In that solitude, amongst the wild, that I acquired a quiet fierceness. I snatched back my childhood times and mixed it in with my womanhood, forming an intoxicating concoction of my newly defined sense of self and femininity.
The Chugach, with all its ineffable wonder, saved me; it held a scalpel to my soul and etched out the darkness. Like a bandage, nature soothed—and continues to soothe— the remnants of my bruised and battered heart, ultimately leading to a continual process towards deeper healing.
Now, I’m happy to say that I’m currently fixated in a child-like wonder: drinking in the sunshine, kissing the earth with my feet, weaving my fingers through the blades of grass, fully living out those times.