I just spent 5 days backpacking by myself in what is referred to as “The Lost Coast” of California. It’s a very rugged and beautiful section of coastline where Hwy 1 diverges from the coast. You get in there on an unmarked nicely rutted road. Once in about 6 miles, you can camp there or pack in on the trail head, which I did. I partly wanted to see how well my body could handle the exertion, having not done this in 6 years and also having more difficulty with my neck lately, but I have to say I did very well including some major climbs on the way in and out of the 5 mile trip into the wilderness. There was some fresh bear scat on the trail so I sang lots of bear love songs along the way, and I had my trusty sentry and companion for all my backpacking trips, Tootsie Bear, strapped to the back of my pack. He’s lost an eye over time, so I’m not sure how much I can count on him but he does his best, I’m sure.
I’ve really been feeling a sense of disconnection lately, dislocation might even be more accurate, which feels like it comes from too much time spent in a technological world. Even though I live on the ocean in a beautiful more natural setting, I can still spend too much time on the computer writing, emailing, blogging, organizing, working on photographs, etc. and also on the phone, and even watching television (although I don’t watch very much, I distinctly heard Judge Judy’s voice arise while in the woods – a bad sign). I have set a “Mindfulness Bell” on my computer to go off randomly about 40 or so times a day so that whenever I am sitting at my computer and the bell goes off, I get up and stretch my body/neck and take a few moments to comeback to myself. It seems to help quite a bit. Nonetheless, spending time in nature where I was fully unplugged, albeit only for 5 days, was very healing for me. I deeply rested. Deeply. I could have napped for a couple of more days for sure as I strung a hammock along a lovely stream and would spend many hours a day in there, sleeping 4 or 5 times each day. I’d also go to bed with the sunset and awake with the sunrise which is wonderful natural rhythm I might add.
On my way out of the Lost Coast, I realized I wanted to try to take some photographs with my phone (I had it with me simply because I didn’t want to expose it to the risk of being stolen from my truck). When I reached a beautiful vista point high over the raw coastline of Northern California, I turned it on to take a picture. I was horrified to find that I had full reception signal and was notified that I had 12 voice mails waiting for me. I of course refused to listen to them, but I did receive a text message from a friend which I foolishly responded to. He tried to engage a bit in a back and forth text thing, but I couldn’t handle it, I just needed to have some time away from everything, some time that was sacredly pure.
When I finally got out, I unloaded my gear into my truck parked in a shady redwood grove and drove to the beach to warm my bones and rest and snack a little. What a joy to find that there were no people around and two large and significantly antlered elk grazing in the field upstream about 250 yards from where I was laying in the sand. I took off my clothes and gave the sun a chance to re-invigorate my taxed system. After lying in the sand for a bit, I decided to look up and see where the elk were and one of them was trotting downstream in my general direction and started doing a big showy dance / kick / prance / antler waggle, clearly directly at me to let me know that this was his place. I backed off towards my truck and he went back upstream. A few minutes later both of them came tromping down the creek in a greater show of intimidation. I will admit that it is very effective as I backed off fully to my truck to leave them in grazing peace. It was a beautiful spectacle, and reminded me further how lovely and engrossing the natural world can be.
I’ll need to look more closely at my life as it seems that most of my creative projects involve the computer these days – photography, writing, and one and perhaps even two new website ideas I am trying to bring to fruition. I am loving playing/learning piano and singing very much lately, so I do that quite often, generally several times per day, but to be honest I spend more time at the computer than I do reading or walking along this beautiful coastline, although I do that often as well. I really have an urge to live more closely to the land, perhaps living on 5 or so acres with a small pond and a large garden or meadow, or perhaps even having animals and an orchard of some sort. The urge for a lifestyle which is spent more outdoors (and less connected to technology) is very attractive to me. I have to look closely at the underlying hooks that keep me attached to technology. The Mindfulness Bell I installed on my computer is a good start, but it feels like something perhaps more radical might be called for. I remember living for 7 years without a television and I loved it. Can I even imagine living without a computer? I just bought a replacement small computer to take with me to write while I travel. Something sank in the pit of my stomach as I opened the box. I knew that it was my way of trailing my tether along with me wherever I go. Can’t I just Be?