Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Wilderness

Last summer I had the opportunity to lead a leadership and discipleship course in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. This trip and looking forward to future ones is the context of this post. Enjoy!

After playing in our snowy backyard, I pause with my co-instructors to soak up our current dwelling place:

The omnipresent slope of Arrow Mountain lies to the west with switchbacks tattooed on its landscape. The dazzling blue green of Turquoise Lake just beyond our camp creates a striking backdrop for the most resilient icebergs. The sheer granite face of Spider Mountain looms straight ahead. This cliff is a giant soon to be dwarfed by its larger comrades when we reach our 13,300 foot vantage point—the summit of Downs Mountain, which itself is showing off its snowy bald head off to our left.

I smile from our perch as I turn my attention just below us to our companions going about business in our temporary town.  I feel like the Grinch observing Whoville as I watch them scurry in and out of tents, to the stream to fill up water, out of the cover of the weathered trees asking for hand washing assistance.

After three weeks of backpacking through the Wyoming wilderness a strange thing happens. New friends begin to feel like old ones. Exotic places grow familiar. And my ideas of home and adventure become more intertwined. I came here with sixteen others to learn about community, maybe even experience it. Yet, as I look down on our nomadic village, I can’t help but ponder the glaring irony of our quest.

It’s different for the college students whose life is already segmented into three month chunks. But as instructors we left friends, routine, home in order to create a new community, to teach community.

Yet isn’t an essential element of community to be, to stay? Is a community as temporary as our shelter worthy of the title?

The deeper my roots grow in the small town I call home, the more bizarre and necessary wilderness trips seem. They are bizarre in their blatant disruption of the small, daily joys that result from commitment to place.

Those times in the wilderness continue to shine light on the jaded parts of my heart. 
The desert shows me where I have misplaced my comfort. 
Sometimes we need to leave the familiarity of our slavery in Egypt to encounter the Divine on Mount Sinai. Sometimes it takes wandering in the wilderness to discover I was finding home in all the wrong places. 

Looking up at the mountains reminds me where my help comes from.

So, I'll continue to stay.

But I will also go.

I will go to be changed, renewed, refined, so that I may return to my place in this world.


  1. When I turned my computer on this morning, I was delighted to find posts from my 2 favorite bloggers!
    Thanks, Lisa, for reminding me of my true home.

  2. You're welcome, Mom! You must be referring to Experimenting as We Grow. One of my favorites too! :)