The dangling thermometer registered an icy 0 degrees Fahrenheit. My two older sisters, our mom, our two dogs, and I trudged quietly through the snow. Excitement filled us as we approached our campsite. With our daring hearts we had made the decision to spend the night in the forest near our house during mid-winter. The wind howled as we pitched the small tent and with great effort snuggled down into an abyss of blankets and sleeping bags. Our little corgi took up the position of feet warmer and was soon fast asleep. My mom and Golden Retriever made their way back to house. As she entered the house she felt the pain trapped in the walls, but nevertheless, crawled into the bed with my father.
My mom lay awake in the cold bed deep into the night, filled with pain. “I feel like I need to go check on the girls,” she whispered. With that she rose from bed, bundled up as best she could and left the house. Again, our faithful Golden retriever tagged along. As she walked, she stared into the sky, wondering what was to become of our family. She shook the feeling and picked up her step as her motherly instincts kicked in and she envisioned our frozen little toes and fingers. The crackling of branches and swish of the snow startled my sisters and me, and fear filled our minds as our imaginations ran wild, picturing what monstrosities might be lurking.
“Girls!” my mother shouted. “Girls! Is anyone awake?” relief filled us and we replied as she unzipped the tent door, “Yes, we are doing ok.”
“Are you freezing?” she again questioned.
“Only a little,” my two older sisters admitted. I happened to be toasty as could be with Tippy, our corgi, still down at our feet fast asleep. Reassured, my mom, once again, walked back to the house thinking about our life as she pushed through the snow. She realized it was beautiful how, despite the fighting and brokenness of our home, her daughters could escape it all in the wilderness. Three little girls could find peace in the icy darkness more than in their own home. This feeling of safety in nature drove our pure minds to seek new realities in the beauty and solitude of the woods surrounding our property. That was our life: escaping pain in the beauty of the wilderness.
We lived in the Magnificent Rocky Mountains with the only access to the nearest town, Florissant, a bumpy gravel road that would rattle my brain as we bounced home in our white Suburban. My sisters and I would run for hours through the rolling hills with the surrounding mountains watching over us, like parents observing their children at play. We would spend hours roaming the valleys around our house on four-wheelers, or our trusty steed, Fred. Our imaginations ran wild as we conjured up story after story to enact. When my sisters and I were out roaming, no distractions of social media, cellphones, or notifications could rip us back to the pain of reality. Many nights we spent sleeping under the stars on our rectangular trampoline, staring at the stars through the massive pine trees. We found peace. Peace, the seemingly unattainable feeling that people seek for a lifetime. This feeling, we, three small girls in a broken home chanced upon while running amok among the mountains.
Everyone craves this feeling and yet it’s always been here. Where the sun kisses the horizon, where the ocean laps the jagged shoreline, where the snow glistens on the icy mountains, peace can be found. Nature is the answer. It fills the brain and soul with peace. Picture this, after an exhausting week of tests, papers, deadlines, and drama, you find yourself on the edge of a placid lake, a beaver swimming smoothly in the water while a Robin sings his sweet song above in the trees. The sun glistens off the clear green water and the wind whispers through the trees. You feel no urge to look at your cell phone and your heart beat finally slows. This is what I seek in nature, to slow down, to see true beauty, and to feel peace. Nature gives me peace and life while humbling me and helping me see clearer. Being in nature gives me a chance to escape a mundane, stressful and broken life.
If three innocent girls can replace pain with peace in the wilderness, anyone can seek clarity in the forests, plains, hills, mountains, oceans, and lakes. With broken hearts, we can discover healing in the serenity that nature provides. Now eighteen years old, I still find peace in the wild. It brings feelings that very few things can provide. If once in a while everyone would take the step into the world of nature, their mind could be calmed and cleared simply by seeing the world at its most graceful, delicate, beautiful, and powerful. If everyone could witness the flight of an eagle, the grace of a deer, the power of a lion, the steadiness of a river, or the pull of an ocean, humans could finally begin to achieve peace.