In a damp cathedral of towering firs in Oregon, I bend down, close my eyes, then raise them upward, my eyes and heart open. I pray.
“You are my hunger and my food. My thirst and my water. My wound and my healing.”
I was brought here for this holy moment in the light rain, the tall firs watching, standing guard. I am here for a few words of true prayer. A few steps over the wet loam and dead pine needles. The presence is real. God is always here but God is especially here.
I walk among the trees—the towering Douglas firs with fissured bark, the mountain hemlocks with sadness in their branches, the subalpine firs with aspen-like smoothness, the moss and lichen and loam, the sky shedding tears with rain, the jagged lava rock layering the ground.
I bend down in a cold damp forest. A sanctuary prepared for me.
Despite the moments of discomfort, I do love this life. The way it forces me to do things the hard way; the way it forces me to slow down. You can’t hurry when unloading the truck and setting up; the cooking and clean up; crawling in and out of the truck bed; changing outside or in a restroom; eating on the tailgate after a bike ride; going to the bathroom in the woods. There’s nothing fast or quick about it. But it teaches lessons if I’m willing to learn. It teaches me to move slowly; to embrace the elements, whether a clear night under the stars or low cloud cover or heavy rain. I either embrace it, love it, or I don’t. For the sake of comfort I would miss the elements, the experience of living at the mercy of the wild. I would lose such an important teacher—the rain and the cold, the tall trees I’ve grown to love, the loam and wet earth, going to sleep with the sky as my ceiling and waking to whatever the day decides to be. I am learning to withstand and even love the wild of the elements; the lack of a roof and walls to protect me.
A lack of comfort etches something deeper in us. Challenges produce character. We care far too much about small, silly circumstances and mishaps that don’t really matter. We make them matter when they shouldn’t.
Put yourself at its mercy, and let the wild be your teacher.