Lesson 5: Don’t Fight the Storm
“The goal of individualisation is wholeness, as much as we can accomplish, not the triumph of the ego.”
The forest tunes up your senses! After days in solitude, you start to notice details in your environment. You notice the wind, its speed and direction. You notice the different bird calls and how they vary throughout the day. You know the moon phases and the way the light is constantly shifting and changing. You also notice how your own emotions ebb and flow and how thoughts can race and slow.
On my second Sunday in the forest, I noticed the wind shift. A steady South-West wind began to blow. The temperature started dropping, and soon it felt icy. Initially, there were just scattered clouds, but soon a bank of clouds moved in, dark and threatening.
I also learned that a combination of any of those two was okay. Cold and wind was fine – put on another layer. Rain and cold was fine, but the combination of all three is brutal!
That Sunday, the wind picked up and eventually reached close to gale force; the trees bucking in the wind and a few blowing over. The temperature dropped (I later learned that it reached -4°C in the valley below me), and it started to rain. As an ex-farmer, I love rain, but not this rain! It seemed to blow in from every angle. Horizontal rain is one thing, but with the wind swirling in the forest, it seemed to come in from every direction. Soon everything was wet!
I am not sure if it is an evolutionary hangover, or just misdirected masculine identity, but for some reason, this forest dweller was determined to keep the fire going at all costs. For hours I would brave the rain, putting more timber on the smoky, spluttering fire. I put large logs on top, trying to shelter the lower logs that were still burning. This madness continued for hours until eventually I was saturated to the core and the fire simply gave up and died! Somehow, I took this defeat personally and my mood declined.
I spent a cold, miserable night battling negative thoughts and brutal self-assassinations:
“How can you be such an idiot?”
“What are you even doing out here in the forest?”
It deteriorated further but I’ll spare you the self-deprecating insults. By morning, there was a centimeter of water on the floor of the camp, and the storm was still raging.
Jane (my beautiful wife) and I had made an agreement before I entered the wilderness that I would keep my phone off and only phone her at times of emergency. At about 12:00pm, I phoned her. I was broken! The combination of being wet and cold for hours, and the prolonged isolation had sent me into a negative spiral. My thoughts were negative and emotionally I felt broken. We spoke for quite a time; actually, she spoke – I cried, but by the end of the conversation, I had started pulling myself together.
I went to bed that night cold and damp, with the wind still howling in the trees. It had been a long day! Did I mention “the Labrador” thought it was Christmas? He loves cold, wet, and windy weather. Damn dog!
I woke Tuesday morning to the most glorious day. The sun was shining, it was calm, and the dry forest seemed to be rejoicing. I dried a patch of my table and chair, wrote my journal, prayed, meditated, and took a walk in the glorious forest. I was tender and vulnerable, but very grateful for the beautiful day.
Tuesday was about to become one of the most important days in my personal development, but as I left camp with the overly energetic Labrador, I had no idea what the day would bring…
To be continued
I’ll let you draw your own parallels from this short blog. I know each and every one of you have faced your own storms. For some of you, the sun has come out. For those of you still in the storm, hold tight. I hope and trust the sun will shine for you soon.