I wake up in my bed and look at the map of my home two feet above my face.
My eyes follow the lines of islands, the curve of letters I’ve seen a hundred times, the legend that lists places I have and have not been; Graham Island, Gray Bay, Tanu.
Pushing off my blankets, I bump my head on the ceiling as I maneuver my legs over my yoga mat and guitar, and emerge from the bunk. Feet on the floor of my camper I stand up straight and half stretch, my hands, again, bumping the ceiling. A chainsaw revs to life outside.
Six years ago, I left the air and noise pollution of the city behind, and went careening toward nature, for reasons I did not understand. At the time, all that urged my direction was a sensation deep in my belly, in my gut, in my core.
I’d wake up in my apartment in the middle of town, on a sunny day, feeling miserable, with no desire to go out my door, and into the haste of cement and traffic lights.
I’d watch from my window wondering—what is this immense sadness sitting inside me?
Obligations got me out into the routines of my world. But suddenly, living within the grid of busy streets, and screeching crosswalks, and sirens weighed on my whole being, like an ominous fog. Some days it lessened, but gradually, it got worse; heavier, more prominent.
As my desire for new scenery and simpler settings grew, my desire to write, also, gained momentum.
At this point in my life, I hadn’t taken it too seriously, but as this longing to be elsewhere—this distaste for the city—became stronger, I finally picked up a pen to try and ease my discomfort.
I remember that first free-write.
Rambling inquiries about my emotions turned into solid statements spoken with such straight-shooting conviction that afterward, I knew I had to get proactive.
“Alexis, you need to get out. The mountains in the distance that you gaze at so longingly are calling for you! The trees hunger for your presence, wish to shade you with their boughs. You won’t need shoes, just go. Go! Barefoot with no mask. Return to where you came from.”
Today, I live on an archipelago, 80 kilometres away from the mainland. A place where only one traffic light stands. Crosswalks don’t beep! or bling! or boop!
Sirens are only heard once in a blue moon. If they are heard, our whole community freezes and waits for news of our neighbors.
I wound up here three years ago and haven’t been able to leave.
The initial jilt that pushed me from the city has grown into my knowing that the human condition is remedied—made whole—by interactions with the natural world.
Ultimately, everything that we are is reflected in the cyclic waxing and waning and adapting of the untethered wilderness.
I’ve come to understand this not from YouTube or Google, but from leaving those things behind. By going unattached and unplugged into the forests, rivers, and ocean; up hills, mountains, trees, and out onto the beaches, rocks, and cliffs that dress every edge of the earth I walk on.
I am lucky to have had the space to leave and wander like this.
When my pilgrimage back to basics began, I ran full-sprint from the environment that had been blocking my light. When leaving a metropolis I’ve been visiting, I’ve packed up my car with a ravenous and desperate tone.
Cities are beautiful and vibrant places.
I’ve learned this from a distance.
But, it is a truth I now know and appreciate, along with the people who live and thrive amid such bustling and stimulating surroundings. I applaud them. Respect them. And at times, envy them, knowing that they can be just as wild and genuine as anyone treading barefoot into the old growth of a backyard.
A relationship with nature fuels my spirit, creativity, and the wild feminine that bucks and purrs in the very marrow of my bones.
These things are alive and well in others, from inspirations and resonances that align with who they are, and what they’re here to do.
I have referred to myself as a “recovering city girl,” because that was a necessary process in my journey to authenticity.
Yet, I love and revere the women of high-rises and flashing lights who can strut through their concrete jungle in stiletto heels or converse sneakers with the same comfort and confidence as I walk into the damp and mossy woods of these west coast islands wearing gumboots or nothing at all.
I may no longer echo the daily goings-on of my city sisters, but I can remind them of things they’ve known for generations that hum within the essence of their being. If they cannot be out here in the elements, I am. We are.
That’s a beautiful thing about technology, it connects us.
After many years beyond the reaches of cell reception and with a general distaste for the whole idea of electronic devices, I’ve arrived at a point where I marry the oppositions. The quick and available ease of connection and information via the internet can be a welcoming portal where either ends of the world meet.
Together, we can balance the modern woman with the ancient; the contemporary with the primitive; as we learn and adjust to what our future needs, while acknowledging and remembering the many lessons always offered by the land that was here long before us.
Like Stephen King said, “reading is telepathy.” If we can hear opinions and truths from others with compassion and a willingness to learn, there is no end to the camaraderie we can feel as a whole.
I may have left the city to find my path, but I still want to engage with those who live there.
If we utilize where we’re at technologically and continue to share and exchange tellings from every perspective, maybe each of our individual lessons could benefit us all, collectively.
I wake up in my camper, and outside my door is the color green.
The alders and salal and willows are in full bloom and the hemlocks, cedars, and spruce are stretching up with the warmth of July. I plug in my Wi-Fi router and open my laptop where I can swim in stories and reflections from people in places where so much is happening at all times.
From the edge of a forest, on the edge of the world, I am grateful for technology, cities, and the folks out there who offer their words.