Getting ready for bed the other night, I began to think of the balance required to live in our modern society amongst millions of perturbing items, thoughts and ideas. Then. I realized that we often carry with us objects and ideas that interfere with balance wherever we go and that these things that many of us take for granted or just plain overlook may influence the ways we experience both life in our daily affairs, but also our time spent in nature as well. I tried repeatedly to make a list of things to bring to the woods, but some of my greatest experiences in nature were completely un-mediated. I brought nothing other than myself and an open mind.
First and foremost, I choose to leave behind anything that uses liquid fuel or batteries. The only exceptions to this rule that I occasionally allow myself are a dual-fuel camp stove that comes in handy when fuel wood is either hard to come by, not available, or when I am planning to camp near a vehicle. I have also been known to use a small flashlight from time to time, but again, some of my best experiences have been allowing myself to experience nighttime in the woods using only available light or that from the campfire.
Many ecotour companies admonish their guests to leave behind plastic, especially bags that could find their way out of your hands and litter the forest floor or outstretched limbs of trees for long periods of time. Although I do allow myself the use of ziploc style bags for some food items when I go on longer forays into the wilds, I am acutely aware of the possibility of losing them to the environment and never, under any circumstances allow them to make their way into the fire. Wild animals do not have the ability to understand what plastic is, or the threat it poses to the natural world, so the plastic waste and residue that has made an escape to the environment by my passing has been when my pack was ransacked by critters. Just the same, had I left the plastic home, it would have never become part of the woods. Usually, I find a plastic bag or two in all but the most remote areas, and use them as waste receptacles for the mementos of other people who have not heeded the ideals of no trace camping.
Attitude should be left in Babylon as well. For the life of me, I cannot understand the bombastic tendency to bring our attitudes of expediency and entitlement to the woods with us. Even the times that I have done it myself, the rich and wonderful experiences that I missed because of my own “baggage” were just that, missed. I can never recover the insights that awaited me had I just taken the time to clear the decks of my own mind, so that I could be open to the experiences that awaited me there. Many have spoken of the need to be “out there” for a few days before we can start to feel fully integrated in the experience, or the “coming to an end” phase of woods walking that begins a process of re-integration into the modern life that awaits us when we get home.
The idea of being integrated within a natural world is just as important in the modern world as it is to the wilderness experience, or shall I say, “the experience of wilderness”? Integration of the colors, scents, visual cues, the windows into the lives of wild creatures and the weather, changing light conditions and the sounds of the world around us are enhanced by clearing our minds of the baggage that we carry, even that in our heads.