If you find someone who shares your insatiable desire to be in the forest among the trees and creeks and wildlife; listening to the river and birds; jumping back to the sound of a rattlesnake; trying to stay up late enough to enjoy the stars; someone to talk to about similar things and share ideas about life and death and spirit guides and food; that person is a gift from the universe that is not to be taken for granted.
I’ve known Heidi for 15 years but it wasn’t until we started backpacking together that we connected in a way that does not always happen in someone’s lifetime. The miles we’ve put on together, the night’s we’ve sat up by the campfire dressed in our puffy outfits, the cat holes we’ve dug, and the excitement of planning future trips are all part of this magical connection. We would stay out every day all summer if it were possible. The healing and recharge we get from spending several days in nature, carrying everything we need on our backs, never seeing another person, hoping that at least one of our styles of bear proofing our food works; this is our happy place.
We’ve dialed in our gear, found our favorite dehydrated meals and pretty much could be ready to go in an hour’s notice. We used to ask how much each other’s packs weighed, it’s basically the same every time now. Twenty-five pounds maybe twenty- six. Neither of us are talkers; unless we are backpacking. It’s amazing how much you can talk on a fourteen mile day. I mean; unless you’re chilling out in a centuries old cedar grove, then you are speechless. Lying on your back soaking in the energy of the earth, staring up at the understory of foliage in the shade of giant trees as they cradle you underneath the dirt with their roots. Listen carefully and you can hear the tress communicating with each other. Having someone who appreciates the beauty of where we are and what we are doing makes your life spiritual. People take psychedelics to have our experiences; to see the world so clearly, to have a tree wave at you while you squat next to it to pee. I hear colors and see sounds. It’s all there for the taking. No need for mind altering substances. It’s there. Open your mind. It’s all there.
Heidi is fifteen years younger than me. She’s an incredible athlete. If a rattlesnake bit her calf it would bounce off as if it had just tried to bite a metal pole. Heidi is a sponge for knowledge, constantly challenging herself on the names and identification of trees, wildflowers or constellations. She has a big heart and a sensitive soul and a shield to hide them both from those who she has not yet gotten to know on a level in which to expose that vulnerable side. A stoic armor over a soft warm person who wouldn’t hurt a wild mushroom.
She likes it when I lead. I’m slower. She’s able to focus on the surroundings going my pace. “Syringa!” I’ll hear from behind me when she spots the Idaho state flower. To be clear; when we are climbing switchbacks to a high mountain pass, Heidi is in the lead and has left me in the dust.
I told Heidi last fall that I’ve enjoyed watching her mature. Originally she was more focused on the destination instead of the journey; the physical strength instead of the mindfulness; the feat instead of the adventure. Now we’ll stop, set up our chairs (only one pound) and make a cup of tea in the middle of the day on the middle of the trail and watch and listen.
Heidi has taught me a lot. She’s taught me to journal daily. She’s taught me that a good night sleep beats a glass of red wine any day. She’s taught me to honor and respect and take care of my body. She’s taught me to listen; and I don’t mean the kind of listen where you impatiently wait your turn to give your opinion or experience about the subject. I mean really listen and ask questions and be curious; she listens with her whole body . And she’s taught me it’s ok to set boundaries. We share books, have walking book club, share podcasts and brag about what we made for dinner. We talk about food a lot. We struggle with small talk, parties, assholes, loudness, bad food, disorganization and insincerity. We are both introverts. We love our husbands and our pets, farmer’s markets and gardens, our parents and our siblings and the Apple TV series Ted Lasso. It is the first of March and we are already dreaming of crawling into our sleeping bags and sleeping on the forest floor.
I’m going to let Heidi, unknowingly, pick the book recommendation for this post. She texted me last week;
“I’m reading a book right now called “An Immense World” by Ed Yong. It’s fascinating. It’s about how animals sense the world. I think you’d enjoy it.”
I replied; “Yes, I recommended it to you…..”
Heidi: “What?????? I remember now. That’s so funny. When I saw the title in the magazine it sounded familiar. That’s clearly why.”
“An Immense World; How Animal Senses Revel the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong. I have not read this yet, but it was on Barack Obama’s book list for 2022 and Heidi recommended it too which is good enough for me; Barack and Heidi.
More book recommendations and adventures can be found at Wild About Books.