Try to think of those things that fired up your imagination when you were young. What did it for you?
I asked my wife this question. Music always moved her, be it classical or otherwise. And she loved those old Kung Fu movies she watched with her dad.
For me, it was a little different. What kicked my mind into overdrive was the house where I grew up. Or more to the point, that home’s back yard.
This place was awesome. A line of poplars hedged in the back fenceline. On either side, thick hedges. Large trees dotted what was otherwise an average-sized suburban yard. Birds and squirrels partied down here. With so many years gone by, my memories of that yard built up an almost Rivendell-like image straight out of a Tolkien novel.
My parents later bought a simple, inexpensive A-frame cabin in the Front Range of the Rockies not far from Bailey, Colo. Again, natural beauty abounded. We went exploring one day, tromping around the woods, and I can remember walking up to a faintly sunlit grove of pine and aspen that contained nearly every hue of green imaginable. If I found that spot today, I’d half expect the entire animated cast of “Bambi” to emerge.
Memories like these still affect me today. It’s one of the reasons I head outdoors so much. When I’m lucky, I get to immerse myself in some pretty amazing natural environments. But even those quick hour-long lunchtime workouts outside rejuvenate me, even if the elements aren’t the best.
I’m not going to go all preachy now, but it seems like many of us have lost that childlike wonder of the world around us. Plenty of folks love nature shows, so why not go outside and really see nature?
I remember having a conversation with a co-worker about where our lives had gone and where we were going. I bemoaned the fact that I wasted so much of my 20s. My wake-up call occurred at age 27, hiking with a church youth group up Elk Mountain in the Wichitas. I’d become so conditioned to the couch and the office chair that my body just couldn’t handle the rigors of what should have been an easy hike to Elk’s summit and a leisurely scramble down the boulders on the other side.
Several years later, I went on a summer vacation with my lovely bride in Red River, N.M. One morning, I looked at the ski mountain and decided I needed to hike to its summit. It took me awhile, but I got there and decided next year, a bigger prize was needed. So I set my sights on Wheeler Peak — the first of (so far) 10 4,000-meter ascents in what has become a growing obsession of mine.
So many sights up Wheeler’s East Fork Trail harkened back to childhood memories of other natural settings. I’ve enjoyed every hike and climb I’ve done (except Mount Yale, but that’s another story), but I doubt any of them have moved me as much as that 2003 slog up Wheeler. It resonated in ways that are hard to describe. People glibly talk about “going to church in God’s creation,” but I can tell you that there were times on that trip when my thoughts and emotions were heavily spiritual.
There’s a lot of things that try to pull us down and make us lose touch with the natural world. Careers, family obligations, man-made entertainment, or whatever. I’ve been there. And to be loosed from that, even for brief interlude, is liberating. Healing. Wondrously fun. Like those times when you were young, and the whole world was amazing.